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Roy E. Appleman, James M. Burns 
Russell A* Gugeler, and John Stevens 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

The War in the Pacific 
OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 

by 

Roy E. Apple-man, James M. Burns 
Russell A. Gugelcr, and John Stevens 




CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON B.C., 1993 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 49-45742 



First Printed 1948— CMH Pub 5-11-1 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor 



Advisory Committee 



James P. Baxter 
President, Williams College 

Henry S. Commager 
Columbia University 

Douglas S. Freeman 
Richmond News Leader 

Pendleton Herring 
Social Science Research Council 

John D. Hicks 
University of California 



William T. Hutchinson 
University of Chicago 

S.L.A. Marshall 
Detroit News 

Col. Thomas D. Stamps 
United States Military Academy 

E. Dwight Salmon 
Amherst College 

Charles H. Taylor 
Harvard University 



Walter L. Wright 
Princeton University 



Historical Division, SSUSA 



Chief, Historical Division 
Chief Historian 
Chief, Editorial Branch 
Chief Cartographer 



Brig. Gen. Harry J. Malony 
Kent Roberts Greenfield 
Lt. Col. John M. Kemper 
Wsevolod Aglaimoff 



111 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



The conflict with the Axis Powers confronted the United States Army 
with problems on a scale never faced before — problems as great in adminis- 
tration, training, supply, and logistics as in strategy and tactics. THE UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II sets forth in detail the nature of the 
problems faced, the methods used to solve them, and the mistakes made as 
well as the success achieved. The object is to provide a work of reference for 
military and civilian students as well as a record of achievements which deserve 
an honorable place in the pages of history. Its value to the thoughtful citizen as 
an aid to his comprehension of basic problems of national security has been a 
major consideration. Its preparation has also been prompted by the thought that 
in a faithful and comprehensive record all who participated in the Army's vast 
effort would find a recognition merited by their service and sacrifice. 

The advantage to the Army and the scholar has been the decisive factor in 
proceeding with the least possible delay to the publication of such a series. No 
claim is made that it constitutes a final history. Many years will pass before the 
record of the war can be fully analyzed and appraised. In presenting an organized 
and documented narrative at this time, the Historical Division of the War Depart- 
ment has sought to furnish the War Department and the Army schools an early 
account of the experience acquired, and to stimulate further research by provid- 
ing scholars with a guide to the mountainous accumulation of records produced 
by the war. 

The decision to prepare a comprehensive account of military activities was 
made early in the war. Trained historians were assigned to the larger units of 
the Army and War Department to initiate the work of research, analysis, and 
writing. The results of their work, supplemented by additional research in records 
not readily available during the war, are presented in this series. The general plan 
provides for a division into subseries dealing with the War Department, the 
Army Air, Ground, and Service Forces, the technical services, and the theaters 
of operations. This division conforms to the organization of the Army during 



vii 



World War II and, though involving some overlapping in subject matter, has 
the advantage of presenting a systematic account of developments in each major 
field of responsibility as well as the points of view of the particular commands. 
The plan also includes volumes on such topics as statistics, order of battle, military 
training, the Women's Army Corps, and other subjects that transcend the limits 
of studies focused on an agency or command. The whole project is oriented 
toward an eventual summary and synthesis. 

The present volume concerns one of the most bitterly fought battles of the 
Pacific war, in which the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Navy all played a 
vital part. In order to make the Army's role and the campaign as a whole as 
intelligible as possible the historians have treated in detail the operations of the 
Marine Corps units attached to Tenth Army, and have also sketched the con- 
tribution of the Navy both in preliminary operations against Okinawa and 
in the campaign itself. Another characteristic of this as of other volumes on 
Pacific campaigns is that tactical action is treated on levels lower than those 
usually presented in the history of operations in the European theaters. The 
physical limitations of the terrain fought over in the Pacific restricted the 
number and size of the units which could be employed and brought into sharp 
focus the operations of regiments, battalions, and smaller units. A wealth of 
verified material on such operations is available for all theaters, but it is only 
that of the Pacific which can be used extensively, since in other theaters the 
actions of smaller units are lost in the broad sweep of great distances and large 
forces. The description of small-unit action has the merit of giving the non- 
professional reader a fuller record of the nature of the battlefield in modern 
war, and the professional reader a better insight into troop leading. 

Okinawa: The Last Battle is the work of combat historians of the ist In- 
formation and Historical Service, Tenth Army. The practice of dispatching 
trained historians to accompany troops into combat grew out of earlier experi- 
ence, both in World War I and in the early part of World War II, which demon- 
strated that the paper records produced by units in battle were rarely, if ever, 
adequate for the writing of military history. Lower units, such as the infantry 
company and very often the battalion, do not write as they fight; hence the 
details of combat are not in their records. Even at higher levels many significant 
orders and reports, because they are communicated orally and by telephone, 
are noted in the record only sketchily if at all. An equally serious gap arises 



viii 



from the fact that the "why" behind the decision is almost never discernible in 
the documents. 

The records must be supplemented by interviewing key participants in the 
action at all levels if anything approaching complete understanding of what 
happened is to be attained. Unless such quick on-the-spot study is made, memories 
will grow dim or the man who knows the answer may become a casualty in 
a subsequent operation. Thus the historians who took the field were given the 
mission of noting the messages, reports, and orders as they came in, of spotting 
the gaps in the story as it was thus unfolded, and of taking prompt steps to 
fill those gaps by asking questions. 

At first, historians were sent to the theaters as individuals or teams. Later 
they were organized into units called Information and Historical Services, one 
of which was assigned to each field army. Though the ist Information and 
Historical Service was the first of these to be activated, all the others were called 
on to deal with operations earlier. As a consequence the ist Information and 
Historical Service not only benefited in some measure by the lessons they 
learned, but was the first which was fully organized and prepared to take the 
field at the very start of a major operation, with plans laid for a systematic 
coverage of the campaign. 

In an organizational sense, therefore, the preparations for historical coverage 
of the Okinawa campaign were better than those for earlier operations. This 
explains why the history of the last operation has been issued first. 



Washington, D. C. 
i July 1947 



HARRY J. MALONY 
Brigadier General, USA 
Chief, Historical Division 
War Department Special Staff 



ix 



Preface 



Okinawa: The Last Battle was written by U. S. Army historians who partici- 
pated in the Ryukyus campaign as members of a group organized to accompany 
the American forces to the Ryukyus and secure at first hand the materials for a 
history of their operations. This group was formed in Hawaii as a section of the 
i st Information and Historical Service, which was attached to Tenth Army in 
January 1945. 

Before the embarkation of troops for Okinawa, most of the Tenth Army's 
combat historians, as they were called, had joined at various points in the Pacific 
the units whose part in the coming battle they were to record. Similarly, Marine 
historians were already with III Amphibious Corps headquarters and the Marine 
divisions which were to take part in the action. Lt. Col. John Stevens was in 
command of the Army historians; his chief assistant was M/Sgt. James M. Burns, 
the author of Guam in the series AMERICAN FORCES IN ACTION* Colonel 
Stevens and Sergeant Burns accompanied Tenth Army headquarters. Capt. 
Donald L. Mulford came from Leyte with XXIV Corps and remained with it 
until late in May, when he was assigned to the 96th Division to replace its his- 
torian, Sgt. Bert Balmer, who had been wounded in action. At XXIV Corps 
headquarters Maj. Roy E. Appleman succeeded Captain Mulford. Capt. Edmund 
G. Love, an experienced historian of operations in the Central Pacific, was 
attached to the 27th Division. Capt. Russell A. Gugeler and Capt. Paul R. Leach, 
who had served respectively with the 7th and 77th Divisions on Leyte, accom- 
panied these divisions to Okinawa. Capt. Jesse L. Rogers, on his arrival at Oki- 
nawa in June, was assigned to the 96th Division to assist Captain Mulford. The 
Marine historians on Okinawa were Maj. Almet Jenks, III Amphibious Corps; 
Sgt. Kenneth Shutts and Sgt. Paul Trilling, 1st Marine Division; and Capt. 
Phillips D. Carleton, 6th Marine Division. 

Army historians held frequent conferences during and after the campaign 
for the purpose of coordinating their work. Liaison with the Marine historians 

* Published by the Historical Division, War Department Special Staff. 



XI 



was established soon after the initial landings at the target and was maintained 
throughout the operation. Further information and perspective were gained 
through conferences with Navy personnel at Okinawa and with Navy historians 
in Hawaii and Washington. 

After the campaign, histories of the operations of the four Army divisions 
and of the 6th Marine Division were written by the respective division historians; 
a history of the XXIV Corps on Okinawa was written by Major Appleman; and 
a history of the ist Marine Division on Okinawa was compiled by Capt. James 
R. Stockman, USMCR, from division records and from material supplied by 
the division historians. 

In July 1945, after the battle of Okinawa ended, Colonel Stevens and Ser- 
geant Burns were detached from the ist Information and Historical Service and 
returned to Oahu to write the history of the Okinawa operation at Fort Shafter, 
where the records of all Amy units which had fought on Okinawa were subse- 
quently brought together. Captain Love, who had completed his history of the 
operations of the 27th Division by July 1945, returned to Washington. The other 
Army historians remained with their units to complete their interrogations of 
the men who fought, write the division and corps histories for which they were 
responsible, and be available for prospective new assignments. 

After the war ended, Captain Leach completed the history of 77th Division 
operations, and Captain Mulford and Captain Rogers the account of 96th 
Division operations; these three historians were then separated from the Army. 
Major Appleman and Captain Gugeler, who accompanied the XXIV Corps 
and the 7th Division to Korea, were ordered to Oahu late in the fall of 1945 
to complete their respective corps and division histories at Fort Shafter. Ser- 
geant Burns returned to the United States early in December and was separated 
from the Army. 

By March 1946 Major Appleman had completed the narrative of XXIV 
Corps operations on Okinawa, and Captain Gugeler the history of the 7th 
Division in the campaign. At that time, although Colonel Stevens, Major 
Appleman, and Captain Gugeler were all eligible for separation, they returned 
with the Okinawa records to Washington to continue work in the Historical 
Division, WDSS, on the history of the Okinawa campaign. Together with 
Sergeant Burns, now a civilian, they completed the Okinawa manuscript by 
the end of June. Organization of the volume was developed at conferences 
of all the Army historians during and after the battle on the basis of studies 
by Sergeant Burns. 



Xll 



The manuscript was turned over to the Pacific Section of the Historical 
Division, WDSS. Dr. Charles B. Hirschfeld, a member of the Section, added 
material on high-level planning and logistics, revised and condensed certain 
portions of the manuscript, and aided in the preparation of the maps. The authors 
are especially indebted to Dr. Louis Morton, Chief of the Pacific Section, who 
supervised the preparation of the final manuscript and represented the authors 
during the editing process. The editing was performed by Dr. Albert K. Wein- 
berg of the Editorial Branch, assisted by Miss Edith M. Poole and Miss Grace T. 
Waibel. The maps were prepared under the direction of Mr. Wsevolod 
Aglaimoff. Col. Allison R. Hartman acted as military editor, Major Charles F. 
Byars prepared the list of Tenth Army units in Appendix A, and Mr. George R. 
Powell compiled the charts and tables in Appendix C. Mr. W. Brooks Phillips 
prepared the index. 

Capt. Robert L. Bodell selected the illustrations in this volume from material 
in the possession of the Signal Corps, Army Air Forces, U. S. Navy, U. S. Marine 
Corps, U. S. Coast Guard, and Yan\ magazine. The sketches on pp. 244-45 and 
292-93 were drawn by S/Sgt. T. King Smith of the XXIV Corps Historical 
Section. 



Washington, D. C. 
1 July 1947 



ROY E. APPLEMAN 
JAMES M. BURNS 
RUSSELL A. GUGELER 
JOHN STEVENS 



xm 



Contents 



Chapter Page 

I. OPERATION ICEBERG 1 

The Strategic Decision 1 

Nature of the Target 7 

The Plan of Attack 17 

Mounting the Attack 36 

II. INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 44 

Preliminary Neutralization of Enemy Strength 44 

Seizure of the Kerama Islands 51 

Softening Up the Target 63 

III. WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 68 

The Landing 69 

Moving Inland 74 

Organising the Beachhead 79 

IV. WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 84 

The Japanese Forces 84 

The Japanese Plan of Defense 92 

Enemy Counterattacks by Air and Sea 96 

V. COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 103 

Through the Outposts, 4-8 April 104 

Assaulting the Shuri Defenses, 9-12 April 113 

The Enemy Takes the Offensive 130 

VI. THE CONQUEST OF NORTHERN OKINAWA 138 

Drive up the Ishikawa Isthmus, 4-7 April 138 

Probing the Motobu Defenses, 7-13 April 141 

Closing In on Yae-Take, 14-15 April 144 

Conquest of Motobu Peninsula, 16-18 April 146 

VII. THE CAPTURE OF IE SHIM A 149 

Plans and Preparations of the Enemy 150 

American Plans and Preparations 153 

Invasion of le Shima, 16-17 April 156 

Stalemate at Bloody Ridge, 18-19 April 163 

Capture of legusugu, 20-21 April 173 

Last Phase 181 



xv 



Chapter Page 

VIII. THE ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 184 

Plans and Preparations 184 

Preliminary Attack of the 27th Division, 18 April 190 

The General Attack 194 

IX. FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 208 

Item Pocket 208 

Assaulting the Outer Shuri Defense King 219 

X. TACTICS AND TACTICAL DECISIONS 249 

Tactics and Weapons on Okinawa 249 

Tactical Decisions 258 

XL ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 265 

Stalemate on the West Coast 267 

The 7th Division at Kochi Ridge 269 

The Maeda Escarpment Barrier 274 

XII. THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE AND ITS AFTERMATH . 283 

Planning the Offensive 283 

The Offensive Under Way 286 

Japanese Penetration to Tanabaru, 5 May 294 

The Americans Resume the Offensive 302 

XIII. THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 311 

The Attack in the West 313 

The Attack in the Center 332 

Opening the East Coast Corridor 351 

XIV. BATTLE IN THE RAIN 360 

Enemy Air Attacks 360 

Stalemate in the Center 364 

The 6th Marine Division Occupies Naha 372 

The 7th Division Bids for Envelopment 377 

XV. THE FALL OF SHURI 383 

Exodus From Shuri 387 

American Occupation of Shuri 394 

XVI. BEHIND THE FRONT 403 

Supply Operations 405 

Hospitalization and Evacuation 412 

Military Government • 415 

Base Development 419 



xvi 



Chapter Page 

XVII. THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 422 

The Push South to the Yaeju-Dake-Yu^a-Dake Barrier 422 

The Capture of Oroku Peninsula 427 

Assaulting the Last Defense Line 434 

XVIII. THE BATTLE ENDS 455 

End of Organised Resistance 455 

Surrender and Suicide 462 

Final Mop-up 471 

Victory: Cost and Value 473 

APPENDIX A. MAJOR TACTICAL UNITS OF TENTH ARMY IN THE 

RYUKYUS CAMPAIGN 475 

APPENDIX B. JAPANESE 32d ARMY UNITS IN THE RYUKYUS CAM- 
PAIGN 483 

APPENDIX C . STATISTICS OF THE RYUKYUS CAMPAIGN 487 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 503 

INDEX 513 

Tables 

No. Page 

1. Strength of Army, Marine, and Naval Forces of Tenth Army in the 

Ryukyus Campaign, 30 April-30 June 1945 488 

2. Comparative American and Enemy Major Losses in the Ryukyus Cam- 

paign, 1 April-30 June 1945 489 

3- Casualties Sustained by Tenth Army, 1 April-30 June 1945 490 

4. Troops and Supplies Loaded for the Initial Assault on the Ryukyus . . 492 

5. Personnel and Supplies Loaded for Assault and for First Echelon Garri- 

son in the Ryukyus Campaign, by Point of Embarkation 493 

6. Comparison of Estimated Capacities for Unloading at Okinawa Beaches 

and Quantities Actually Unloaded, 1 April-30 June 1945 494 

7. Cargo Unloaded at Okinawa Beaches, 1 April-30 June 1945 496 

8. Ammunition Expended by Tenth Army Field Artillery, 1 April-30 June 

1945 498 

9. Ammunition Expended by the U. S. Navy in the Ryukyus Campaign, 

March-June 1945 500 

10. Ammunition Expended by XXIV Corps, by Type of Weapon, 4 April-21 

June 1945 501 



XVll 



Charts 



No. Page 

I. Organization of Allied Forces for the Ryukyus Campaign, January 1945. 20 
II. Organization of Central Pacific Task Forces for the Ryukyus Campaign, 

January 1945 22 

III. Organization of Expeditionary Troops for the Ryukyus Campaign, 

January 1945 24 

IV. XXIV Corps Assignment of Shipping for the Assault on Okinawa. . . 43 
V. Organization of the Japanese 62d Division in Okinawa 88 

1. Tenth Army Weekly Battle Casualties, 1 April-30 June 1945 491 

2. Comparison of Estimated Capacities for Unloading at Okinawa Beaches 

and Quantities Actually Unloaded, 1 April-20 June 1945 495 

3. Average Daily Volume of Supplies Unloaded in the Ryukyus, 1 April-16 

May 1945 ' 497 

4. Ammunition Expended by Tenth Army Field Artillery, 1 April-30 June 

1945 499 

Maps 

No. Page 

1. Ryukyu Islands 5 

2. Okinawa Island Group 6 

3. The Plan of Attack 30 

4. Advance in the North: 6th Marine Division, 4-8 April 1945 140 

5. Kakazu Pocket, 21 April 1945 240 



Maps I-XLIX are in accompanying map envelope 

I. Strategic Situation in the Pacific 

II. Island of Okinawa 

III. Southern Okinawa 

IV. Kerama Islands: 77th Division, 26-29 March 1945 
V. Tenth Army Advance, 1-3 April 1945 

VI. Japanese Defensive Positions, 1 April 1945 

VII. Through the Outposts: XXIV Corps, 4-8 April 1945 

VIII. The Pinnacle: 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, 6 April 1945 
IX. Kakazu Ridge: Attack of 9 April 1945 

X. Kakazu Ridge: Attack of 10 April 1945 

XI. XXIV Corps Advance, 9-12 April 1945 

XII. Japanese Plan of Attack, 12 April 1945 



XVlll 



No. 



XIII. 


Japanese Attack, 12-14 April 1945 


XIV. 


Yae-Take: 6th Marine Division, 8-20 April 1945 


XV. 


Landings on Ie Shima: 77th Division, 16 April 1945 


XVI. 


Ie Shima, 18 April 1945 


XVII. 


Ie Shima, 19 April 1945 


XVIII. 


Ie Shima, 20-21 April 1945 


XIX. 


XXIV Corps Attack, 19 April 1945 


XX. 


Fire Plan of 272d Independent Infantry Battalion: Kakazu Area, 19 April 




1945 


XXI. 


Item Pocket: 165th Infantry, 20 April 1945 


XXII. 


Item Pocket, 21 April 1945 


XXIII. 


Item Pocket, 22-25 April 1945 


XXIV. 


Skyline Ridge: 7th Division, 19 April 1945 


XXV. 


Skyline Ridge: 32d Infantry, 21 April 1945 


XXVI. 


96th Division, 20-24 April 1945 


XXVII. 


Fight for the Pinnacles, 20 April 1945 


XXVIII. 


Through the Outer Shuri Defenses, 19-24 April 1945 


XXIX. 


Stalemate at Kochi: 7th Division, 25 April-3 May 1945 


XXX. 


Maeda Escarpment, 25-29 April 1945 


XXXI. 


Attack on Shuri Defenses, 25 April-3 May 1945 


XXXII. 


Japanese Plan of Attack, 4 May 1945 


XXXIII. 


Japanese Attack, 4-5 May 1945 


XXXIV. 


American Advance, 3-10 May 1945 


XXXV. 


Tenth Army Advance, 11-21 May 1945 


XXXVI. 


Sugar Loaf Hill: 6th Marine Division, 14-15 May 1945 


XXXVII. 


Sugar Loaf Hill: 6th Marine Division, 16-17 May 1945 


XXXVIII. 


Sugar Loaf Hill: 6th Marine Division, 18 May 1945 


XXXIX. 


Flattop and Dick Hills, 11-12 May 1945 


XL. 


Flattop and Dick Hills, 13-14 May 1945 


XLI. 


Flattop and Dick Hills, 15 May 1945 


XLII. 


Conical Hill, 11-16 May 1945 


XLIII. 


Conical Hill, 17-21 May 1945 


XLIV. 


Closing in on Shuri, 22-29 May 1945 


XLV. 


Fall of Shuri, 30-31 May 1945 


XL VI. 


The Push South, 1-3 June 1945 


XL VII. 


Oroku and Yaeju-Dake, 4-11 June 1945 


XL VIII. 


Breaching Yaeju-Dake, 12-17 June 1945 


XLIX. 


End of Organized Resistance, 18-21 June 1945 



XIX 



Illustrations 



Page 

Okinawans and Okinawan Customs 8 

Okinawa's Landscape 11 

Village on Okinawa 12 

American Commanders 18 

Loading Supplies for Okinawa 42 

Preliminary Bombardment 47 

Japanese Kamikaze Attacks 48 

Terrain in the Kerama Retto 53 

Landings in the Keramas 59 

"Suicide Boats" 61 

Softening Up the Target 62 

Bombarding the Beaches 71 

The Landings 73 

Moving Inland 78 

Supplying and Developing the Beachhead 82 

Japanese Commanders 86 

Japanese Weapons 90 

Kamikaze Attacks 98 

Sinking of the Yamato 100 

XXIV Corps Turns South 106 

East Coast Battles 109 

Kakazu West 114 

Kakazu Gorge 122 

Tombstone Ridge Area 128 

Saddle Between Kakazu West and Kakazu Ridge 136 

Fire Bombing 142 

Pushing to Yae-Take 145 

Ie Shima 151 

Rockets Over Ie Shima 155 

Invasion of Ie Shima 158 

Fighting Toward Ie 161 

Death of Ernie Pyle 165 

Ie and the Southern Beaches 166 

Typical Defense System 168-69 

Attack on Bloody Ridge 174 

Government House Hill 179 

Strategic Area of Southern Okinawa 186 

Ouki Hill-Skyline Area and Machinato Inlet 188 



xx 



Page 

Opening Action, 19 April 195 

Battle for Tombstone Ridge 199 

Death of a Tank 201 

West End of Urasoe-Mura Escarpment 206 

Item Pocket Area 212 

Heart of Item Pocket 216 

Skyline Ridge 221 

Rocky Crags 229 

Nishibaru Escarpment Area 233 

The Pinnacles 239 

Urasoe-Mura Escarpment 244-45 

Kakazu Village and Kakazu Pocket 246 

Japanese Fortifications 251 

Naval Fire and Air Support 252 

Blowtorch and Corkscrew 254 

Southern Coast Line 261 

Asa River Area 266 

Kochi Area ; 270 

Maeda Escarpment and Tank-Infantry Attacks 277 

Maeda Escarpment Strong Points 278 

Japanese Sea and Air Attack 288 

Japanese Position at Tanabaru Escarpment, 4-7 May 292-93 

Japanese Land Offensive 294 

Tanabaru Escarpment 298 

Attacks on Hill 60 305 

American Advance Down the Center 308 

West Flank Zone 315 

Sugar Loaf and Horseshoe Hills 316 

Fighting at Sugar Loaf and Crescent Hills 324 

Dakeshi Ridge 327 

Reverse Slope of Wana Ridge 331 

Ishimmi Ridge 335 

Chocolate Drop Hill 340 

Dick Hills and Flattop 345 

Advance Around Dick Hills and Flattop 350 

Conical Hill and East Coast Flatlands 354 

Japanese Air Raids on Okinawa 363 

Wana Draw 367 

Mud and Flood 368 

"Three Sisters" and Oboe 371 

Crossing the Asato River and Entering Naha 374 

East Coast Corridor and Yonabaru-Naha Valley 380 



xxi 



Page 



Casualties 385 

Secret Retreat 390 

Shuri Heights 395 

Shuri 399 

Shuri Castle Bell 401 

Supply and Communications Installations 404 

Moving Supplies 408 

Movement of Wounded 413 

Military Government 416 

Development of Airfield and Rehabilitation of Port 418 

Mud and Supply 426 

Advancing to Yaeju-Dake 429 

Last Point of Resistance 430 

Base of Oroku Peninsula 435 

Yaeju-Dake and Hill 95 437 

Flame Through a Hose 444 

Night Attack on Yaeju-Dake 448 

Yuza Peak and Kunishi Ridge 453 

Fighting Toward Hill 89 457 

Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner 460 

Overcoming the Last Resistance 464 

Surrender 466 

Last Japanese Command Post 469 

Raising the American Flag 472 



xxn 



The U.S. Army Center of Military History 

The Center of Military History prepares and publishes histories as required by 
the U.S. Army. It coordinates Army historical matters, including historical proper- 
ties, and supervises the Army museum system. It also maintains liaison with public 
and private agencies and individuals to stimulate interest and study in the field 
of military history. The Center is located at 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, 
D.C. 20005-3402. 



xxin 



OKINAWA: 
THE LAST BATTLE 



CHAPTER I 

Operation ICEBERG 

On 3 October 1944 American forces in the Pacific Ocean Areas received a 
directive to seize positions in the Ryukyu Islands (Nansei Shoto). Okinawa is 
the most important island of the Ryukyu Group, the threshold of the four main 
islands of Japan. The decision to invade the Ryukyus signalized the readiness of 
the United States to penetrate the inner ring of Japanese defenses. For the enemy, 
failure on Okinawa meant that he must prepare to resist an early invasion of the 
homeland or surrender. 

The Strategic Decision 

Operation ICEBERG, as the plan for the Okinawa campaign was officially 
called, marked the entrance of the United States upon an advanced stage in the 
long execution of its strategy in the Pacific. Some 4,000 miles of ocean, and more 
than three years of war, separated Okinawa from Pearl Harbor. In 1942 and 1943 
the Americans had contained the enemy and thrown him back; in 1944 their 
attack gathered momentum, and a series of fierce island campaigns carried them 
toward the Japanese inner stronghold in great strides. 

The Allied advance followed two main axes, one through the islands of the 
Central Pacific, the other through the South and Southwest Pacific. Navy task 
forces and some other elements operated on both fronts as needed. The result was 
"unremitting pressure" against Japanese military and naval might, a major 
objective of American strategy. 

Near the close of 1943, a thrust at the Gilbert Islands from the Central 
Pacific, in which Tarawa, Makin, and Apamama were seized, paved the way 
for the assault on the Marshalls on 31 January 1944. American forces captured 
Kwajalein, Majuro, and Eniwetok, and their fleet and air arms moved forward. 
At the same time, American carriers heavily attacked Truk, and that formidable 
enemy naval base in the Carolines was thenceforth immobilized. Saipan, Tinian, 
and Guam in the Marianas fell to American arms in the summer of 1944, and, 
in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, the U. S. Navy administered a crushing 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



defeat to the Japanese fleet that tried to interfere with the American push west- 
ward. In September and October the Americans occupied Uhthi in the western 
Carolines for use as an anchorage and advanced fleet base, and took Angaur and 
Peleliu in the Palau Islands, situated close to the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, American forces in the South and Southwest Pacific were 
approaching Mindanao, southernmost of the Philippine Islands, by advances 
through the Solomons and New Guinea in which Japanese armies were neu- 
tralized and isolated on Bougainville, New Ireland, and New Britain. The 
capture of Wakde on the northeastern coast of New Guinea in May 1944 was 
followed by the seizure of Biak and Noemfoor. During the summer a Japanese 
army attempting to break out from Wewak in Australian New Guinea was 
subdued. The invasion of Morotai in September placed American forces within 



300 miles of Mindanao. 1 (See Map No. I 



The ultimate goal of American operations in the Pacific was the industrial 
heart of Japan, along the southern shores of Honshu between the Tokyo plain 
and Shimonoseki. American strategy aimed to reach this objective by successive 
steps and to take advantage, on the way, of Japan's extreme vulnerability to 
submarine blockade and air bombardment. Throughout most of 1944 Army 
and Navy staffs in the Pacific Ocean Areas had been planning for the invasion 
of Formosa (Operation CAUSEWAY) in the spring of 1945. On the basis of 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive of March 1944, the general concept of this 
operation had been outlined, the availability of troops considered and reviewed 
many times, and the assignment of task force commanders announced. On 23 
August, a joint staff study for CAUSEWAY had been published. It was clear 
that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet 
and Pacific Ocean Areas, intended to invade Formosa after Southwest Pacific 
forces had established positions in the Central and Southern Philippines; 
CAUSEWAY, in turn, was to be followed by operations against the Ryukyus 
and Bonins, or against the China coast. Either course would lead eventually to 
assault on the Japanese home islands. 2 

On 15 September the Joint Chiefs directed Gen. Douglas MacArthur to 
seize Leyte on 20 October, instead of 20 December as planned, and to bypass 

1 Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, July i, 1943 to June 30, 1945 
. . ., pp. 71, 73; see also maps, pp. 66-68. 

2 U. S. Army Forces, Middle Pacific, History of G— 5 Section, pp. 169-76; JCS 713/4, 12 Mar 44; 
JCS 924, 30 Jun 44: Opns against Japan Subsequent to Formosa. 



*All maps numbered in Roman are placed m accompanying map envelope. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



3 



Mindanao. At the same time, Admiral Nimitz was instructed to bypass Yap. 3 
On the next day Admiral Nimitz reconsidered the Formosa operation. He 
believed that the early advance into the Central Philippines, with the opportunity 
of acquiring the desired fleet anchorages there, opened up the possibility of a 
direct advance northward through the Ryukyus and Bonins rather than through 
Formosa and the China coast. He reviewed the objectives of CAUSEWAY — 
the establishment of air bases from which to bomb Japan, support China, and 
cut off the home islands from resources to the south — with reference to the new 
possibility and in a letter to his Army commanders requested their opinions 
on the subject. 4 

Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, Jr., Commanding General, U. S. Army 
Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, replied that only those steps should be taken which 
would lead to the early accomplishment of the ultimate objective — the invasion 
of Japan proper. From this point of view the occupation of Formosa as a 
stepping stone to an advance on Japan via the China coast did not, in his opinion, 
offer advantages commensurate with the time and enormous effort involved. He 
proposed instead, as a more economical course, a dual advance along the Luzon- 
Ryukyus and the Marianas-Bonins axes. He fully agreed with General Mac- 
Arthur's plan to seize Luzon after Leyte. The seizure of Luzon would provide 
air and naval bases in the Philippines from which enemy shipping lanes in the 
China Sea could be blocked and, at the same time, Formosa effectively neu- 
tralized. From the ample bases in Luzon, it would be possible and desirable to 
seize positions in the Ryukyus for the prosecution of air operations against 
Kyushu and Honshu. The occupation of bases in the Bonins would open another 
route from the Marianas for bomber operations against Japan. The air assaults 
on Japan would culminate in landings on the enemy's home islands. 5 

Lt. Gen. Millard F. Harmon, Commanding General, U. S. Army Air Forces, 
Pacific Ocean Areas, in his reply to Admiral Nimitz referred to a previous letter 
which he had written to the Admiral, recommending, as an alternative to the 
invasion of Formosa and the China coast, the seizure of islands in the Ryukyu 
chain, for development as air bases from which to bomb Japan. He restated these 
views and emphasized his opinion that if the objective of CAUSEWAY was the 

3 Biennial Report Chief of Staff, p. 71. 

4 Ltr CINCPOA to USAFPOA, Serial 000113, 16 Sep 44, sub: CAUSEWAY Objectives, cited in 
USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, pp. 176-77. 

5 Ltr HUSAFPOA to CINCPOA, Serial 0003, 27 Sep 44, sub: CAUSEWAY Objectives. 



4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



acquisition of air bases it could be achieved with the least cost in men and 
materiel by the capture of positions in the Ryukyus. 6 

The commander of the ground troops designated for CAUSEWAY, Lt. Gen. 
Simon B. Buckner, Jr., Commanding General, Tenth Army, presented the 
primary objection to the entire Formosa operation. He informed Admiral Nimitz 
that the shortages of supporting and service troops in the Pacific Ocean Areas 
made CAUSEWAY unfeasible. General Buckner added, about a week later, 
that if an invasion of Luzon was planned the need for occupying Formosa was 
greatly diminished. 7 

Admiral Nimitz communicated the substance of these views to Admiral 
Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet. The latter, who had been the 
chief proponent of an invasion of Formosa, proposed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
on 2 October 1944 that, in view of the lack of sufficient resources in the Pacific 
Ocean Areas for the execution of CAUSEWAY and the War Department's 
inability to make additional resources available before the end of the war in 
Europe, operations against Luzon, Iwo Jirria, and the Ryukyus be undertaken 
successively, prior to the seizure of Formosa. Favorable developments in the 
Pacific and in Europe might make CAUSEWAY feasible at a later date. 8 On 
the next day, 3 October, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a directive to Admiral 
Nimitz to seize one or more positions in the Ryukyu Islands by 1 March 1945. 9 
On 5 October Admiral Nimitz informed his command that the Formosa opera- 
tion was now deferred and that, after General MacArthur invaded Luzon on 
20 December 1944, the Pacific Ocean Areas forces would seize Iwo Jima on 20 
January 1945 and positions in the Ryukyus on 1 March. 10 

The projected Ryukyus campaign was bound up strategically with the 
operations against Luzon and Iwo Jima; they were all calculated to maintain 
unremitting pressure against Japan and to effect the attrition of its military 
forces. The Luzon operation in December would allow the Southwest Pacific 
forces to continue on the offensive after taking Leyte. The occupation of Iwo 
Jima in January would follow through with another blow and provide a base 

8 Ltr Hq AAFPOA to CINCPOA, 24 Sep 44, sub: CAUSEWAY Objectives, cited in USAFMIDPAC 
G— 5 Hist, p. 177; USAFPOA Participation in the Okinawa Operation Apr-Jun 45, 1, 143. 

7 Ltr Hq Tenth Army to CINCPOA, 26 Sep 44, sub: Feasibility of CAUSEWAY Opn; Ltr Hq Tenth 
Army to CINCPOA, 4 Oct 44, sub: CAUSEWAY Objectives. Both cited in USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, 
pp. 177, 179. 

8 JCS 713/18, 2 Oct 44. 9 JCS 713/19, 3 Oct 44. 

10 CINCPOA dispatch 050644,— Oct 44, cited in USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, p. 180. 





RYUKYU ISLANDS 



100 



100 




MILES 



125° 



MAP NO. 1 



6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 




MAP NO. 2 



for fighter support for the B-29's operating against Japan from the Marianas. 
The seizure of Okinawa in March would carry the war to the threshold of 
Japan, cut the enemy's air communications through the Ryukyus, and flank 
his sea communications to the south. Okinawa was, moreover, in the line of 
advance both to the China coast and to the Japanese home islands. 11 

The direct advance to the Ryukyus-Bonins line from the Luzon-Marianas 
was thus conceived within the framework of the general strategy of destroying 
by blockade and bombardment the Japanese military forces or their will to resist. 
The Ryukyus were within medium bomber range of Japan, and it was estimated 
that 780 bombers, together with the necessary number of fighters, could be based 
there. An advanced fleet anchorage was available in Okinawa. From these air- 
fields: and naval bases American air and naval forces could attack the main 
islands of Japan and, by intensified sea and air blockade, sever them from the 
Japanese conquests to the south. The captured bases could also be used to sup- 
port further operations in the regions bordering on the East China Sea. Finally, 

n JCS 713/18, 2 Oct 44. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



7 



the conquest of the Ryukyus would provide adequate supporting positions for the 
invasion of Kyushu and, subsequently, Honshu, the industrial heart of Japan. 12 

Nature of the Target 

The Islands 

The Ryukyu Islands lie southwest of Japan proper, northeast of Formosa and 



the Philippines, and west of the Bonins, (See Map No. l.)The islands, peaks of 



submerged mountains, stretch in an arc about 790 miles long between Kyushu 
and Formosa and form a boundary between the East China Sea and the Pacific 
Ocean. The archipelago consists of about 140 islands, only 30 of which are large 
enough to support substantial populations. The climate is subtropical, the tem- 
perature ranging from about 60 F. to 83 F. Rainfall is heavy, and the high 
humidity makes the summer heat oppressive. The prevailing winds are mon- 
soonal in character, and between May and November each year the islands 
are visited by destructive typhoons. 13 

Approximately in the center of the arc is the Okinawa Group (Gunto) of 
some fifty islands clustered around the island of Okinawa. The Kerama Islands 
lie in an area from ten to twenty miles west of southern Okinawa. Kume, 
Tonachi, Aguni, and Tori form a rectangle to the north of the Kerama Group. 
Ie Shima stands off the jutting tip of the Motobu Peninsula on northern Okinawa, 
while farther to the north lie the Iheya Islands and Yoron. A chain of small 
islands, called by the Americans the Eastern Islands, extends along the eastern 
shore of southern Okinawa. Lying in the path of the Japan Current, the entire 
Okinawa Group is surrounded by seas warm enough to allow the growth of 
coral, and hence all the islands are surrounded by fairly extensive reefs, some 



of which extend several miles ofT shore. (See Map No. 2.) 



Okinawa is the largest of the islands in the Ryukyus. Running generally 
north and south, it is 60 miles long and from 2 to 18 miles wide, with an area of 

12 JPS 404/14, 7 Oct 44. 

13 The description of the terrain of Okinawa is taken from the following sources: CINCPAC-CINCPOA 
Bull No. 161-44, 15 Nov 44: Okinawa Gunto; Office of the Chief of Naval Opns, Civil Affairs Handbook 
Ryukyu Islands, Op Nav 13-31, 15 Nov 44; Joint Amph Force Int Sec-Tenth Army G-2 Info Bull, 
Feb 45: Hagushi Landing Area; USAFPOA G-2 Objective Data Section, 1 Feb 45: Study of Okinawa 
Gunto; Tenth Army Tentative Opn Plan ICEBERG 1-45, 6 Jan 45, Annex 3; Tenth Army G-2 Int 
Monograph Ryukyus Campaign, Aug 45, Pt. I, Sec. A, p. 4; Interv 1st I & H Service Off with 1st 
Lt Robert Seeburger, Photo Interp Off, G-2 XXIV Corps, 4 Jul 45; personal obsn from air by Lt Col John 
Stevens, Tenth Army Historian, 9 Jun 45. All interviews and notes of personal observation are recorded 
in the Okinawa Diary kept by Lt Col John Stevens and M/Sgt James M. Burns of the 1st Information 
and Historical Service. The diary is on file in the Historical Division, WDSS. 




OKINAWAN CUSTOMS include the burial tomb and the veneration of ancestors. The 
burial tombs characteristic of the Okjnawan landscape stand out clearly in this aerial view 
{above) just north of Shuri. 




OKINAWANS, their head man, and a native priest ( white hat ) gather around an American 
soldier-interpreter as he asl^s questions. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



9 



485 square miles. It is entirely fringed with reefs: on the western side the reef lies 
fairly close to shore and is seldom over a mile wide; on the eastern side, where 
the coast is more sheltered, the reef extends for some distance off shore, the widest 
and shallowest points being north of Nakagusuku Bay. (See Maps NosTTll anc fTlL] 

When Commodore Perry's ships sailed into Naha Harbor, on 26 May 1853, 
Okinawa was a semi-independent country, paying tribute to China and Satsuma. 
It was annexed in 1879 by Japan, which integrated the Okinawan people almost 
completely into the Japanese governmental, economic, and cultural structure. 
The racial origins of the Okinawans are similar to, but not identical with, those 
of the Japanese, and the Okinawan stock and culture had been subject to exten- 
sive Chinese influence. While the Okinawans generally resemble the Japanese 
in physique, they differ appreciably in their language, the native Luchuan 
tongue. The predominant religion among the Okinawans is an indigenous, 
animistic cult, of which worship of fire and the hearth is typical ; veneration of 
ancestors is an important element in this religion and the burial tomb the 
most characteristic feature of the Okinawa landscape — a feature which the Jap- 
anese were to convert into a formidable defensive position. 

The standard of living of the Okinawan people is low; the Japanese made 
no attempt to raise it, regarding the Okinawans as inferior rustics. Most of the 
inhabitants subsist on small-scale agriculture. When the invading Americans 
climbed up from the beaches, they found every foot of usable land cut into small 
fields and planted with sugar cane, sweet potatoes, rice, and soy beans. In 1940 
the population of the island was 435,000. 

The terrain in northern Okinawa, the two-thirds of the island above the 
Ishikawa Isthmus, is extremely rugged and mountainous. A central ridge, with 
elevations of 1,000 feet or more, runs through the length of the region; the ridge 
is bordered on the east and west by terraces which are dissected by ravines and 
watercourses, and it ends at the coast in steep cliffs. About 80 percent of the area 
is covered by pine forests interspersed with dense undergrowth. Troop move- 
ments are difficult in the region as the use of vehicles is confined to the poor road 
that hugs the western shore. The Motobu Peninsula, which is nearly square in 
shape and juts to the west, has also a mountainous and difficult terrain. Two 
mountain tracts separated by a central valley run east and west the length of the 
peninsula. Successive coastal terraces are well developed on the north, east, and 
west of the peninsula. About three and one-half miles off the northwest end of 
the Motobu Peninsula is the small flat-topped island of Ie Shima, with a sharp 
pinnacle about 500 feet high at the eastern end. 



10 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The southern third of Okinawa, south of Ishikawa, is rolling, hilly country, 
lower than the north but broken by terraces, steep natural escarpments, and 
ravines. This section is almost entirely under cultivation and contains three- 
fourths of the population of the island ; here, too, are the airfields and the large 
towns — Naha, Shuri, Itoman, and Yonabaru. It was in this area that the battle 
for Okinawa was mainly fought. The limestone plateau and ridges are ideal for 
defense and abound in natural caves and burial tombs, easily developed into 
strong underground positions. Generally aligned east and west, the hills offer 
no north-south ridge line for troop movement, and thus they provide successive 
natural lines of defense, with frequent steep slopes created by artificial terracing. 
Rice paddies fill the lowlands near the coasts. The roads are more numerous than 
in the north, but, with the exception of those in Naha and its vicinity, they are 
mostly country lanes unsuited for motorized traffic. Drainage is generally poor, 
and heavy rains turn the area into a quagmire of deep, clay-like mud. 

South of Zampa Point on the west there is a 15,000-yard stretch of coast line 
which includes nearly 9,000 yards of beaches, divided by the Bishi River. These 
are known as the Hagushi beaches, deriving their name from a small village at 
the mouth of the river. The beaches are not continuous but are separated by cliffs 
and outcropping headlands. They range from 100 to 900 yards in length and 
from 10 to 45 yards in width at low tide, and some are completely awash at high 
water. A shallow reef with scattered coral heads borders the entire stretch of 
beach and, in many places, is almost a barrier reef, with deeper water between its 
crest and the shore line than immediately to seaward. The beaches are for the 
most part coral sand and most have at least one road exit. A low coastal plain 
flanks the beaches from Zampa Point south to Sunabe; it is dominated by rolling 
hills which afford excellent observation, good fields of fire along the beaches, 
and extensive cover and concealment. Less than 2,000 yards inland on the plain 
lie the Yontan and Kadena airfields, north and south of the Bishi River. A 400- 
foot-high hill mass, rising southeast of Sunabe and extending across the center 
of the island, dominates the entire beachhead area. Composed of innumerable 
sharp ridges and deep ravines, it is a major obstacle to rapid troop movements 
and can be used effectively for a strong delaying action. 

South of the Sunabe hills, down to the Uchitomari-Tsuwa line, the island 
narrows to 5,500 yards. The terrain is essentially similar to that behind the Hagu- 
shi beaches, with heavily wooded uplands and extensively terraced and cultivated 
valleys and lower slopes. The hills and ridges are generally low except for some 
high peaks in the general vicinity of Kuba on the east coast, from which observa- 




OKINAWA'S LANDSCAPE in the south is marked by fields of grain and vegetables, 
broken only by humps oj coral, farmhouses, and villages. Navy plane flying over such 
terrain is shown dropping supplies to the fast-moving American troops early in the campaign. 




VILLAGES ON OKINAWA consist of small clusters of houses surrounded by vegetation- 
covered stone and mud walls. Note camouflaged Japanese Army trucks. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



J 3 



tion of the area is excellent. Roads are adequate for light Japanese transport but 
not for the heavy strain of American military traffic. 

On the east coast, the Katchin Peninsula on the north and the Chinen Penin- 
sula on the south extend into the ocean to inclose the spacious fleet anchorage of 
Nakagusuku Bay, called by the American troops "Buckner" Bay. A low coastal 
plain from one-fourth to one mile wide runs along the shore of the bay from the 
Katchin Peninsula to Yonabaru. At Yonabaru the plain extends inland to the 
west through an area of moderate relief and joins another coastal flat extending 
northeastward from Naha. A cross-island road follows this corridor and connects 
the two cities. Naha, the capital of the island, with a population of 65,000, is 
Okinawa's chief port and can accommodate vessels up to 3,000 tons. Southwest 
of the city, on the Oroku Peninsula, was the Naha airfield, the most highly 
developed field on the island. 

In the region north of the Naha- Yonabaru corridor and in the vicinity of 
Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, lies the most rugged terrain in the south- 
ern part of the island. From the high ground near Shuri and from many other 
vantage points in this area observation is excellent to the north and south and 
over the coastal regions. At the highest point the hills rise about 575 feet, but the 
lack of pattern, the escarpments, steep slopes, and narrow valleys characteristic 
of the region make the major hill masses ideal territory for defense. Many of the 
escarpments are sheer cliffs without topsoil or vegetation. The low ground is 
filled with twisting ridges and spotted with small irregular knolls, rendering 
observation difficult and providing excellent locations for minor infantry and 
antitank positions. The most prominent features of the region are the strong 
natural defensive line of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, rising from the west coast 
above the Machinato airfield and running for 4,500 yards across the island in a 
southeasterly direction, and the chain of hills through Tanabaru and Minami- 
Uebaru to the east coast southwest of Tsuwa. 

South of the strong Shuri positions the terrain is rough, but there are few 
large escarpments. There are some broad valleys and an extensive road net 
which would facilitate troop movements. The terrain in the southern end of the 
island consists of an extensive limestone plateau, surrounded by precipitous 
limestone cliffs. The northern side of the plateau is a 300-foot escarpment which 
rises vertically from the valley floor in a jagged coral mass. On the top of the 
plateau major hills — Yuza-Dake and Yaeju-Dake — cover all approaches from 
the north, east, and west. Along the southeastern coast, much of the stretch 
from Minatoga to the eastern end of the Chinen Peninsula consists of beaches. 



*4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



These are dominated by the rolling dissected terrace forming the body of the 
peninsula and by the high plateau to the southwest. 

American Intelligence of the Enemy 

American knowledge of the enemy and of the island of Okinawa was 
acquired slowly over a period of many months and in the face of many diffi- 
culties. With Okinawa isolated from the world by the Japanese, information 
of military value concerning this strategic inner defense line of the Empire 
was scarce and difficult to obtain. Limited basic intelligence was garnered from 
documents and prisoners captured on Pacific island battlefields, from interro- 
gation of former residents of the Ryukyus, and from old Japanese publications. 
The great bulk of the data was obtained through aerial photographic recon- 
naissance. This, however, was often incomplete and inadequate, particularly for 
terrain study and for estimating enemy strength and activity. The distance of 
the target from American air bases — 1,200 nautical miles — necessitated the use 
of B-29's and carrier planes for photographic missions; the former afforded 
only high-altitude, small-scale coverage, while the latter depended on the 
scheduling of carrier strikes. The relatively large land masses involved and the 
prevalence of cloud cover added to the difficulty of obtaining the large-scale 
photographs necessary for detailed study of terrain and installations. 14 

The target map prepared by American intelligence represented all that 
was known of the terrain and the developed facilities of the island. This map, 
scale 1 : 25,000, was based on aerial photographs obtained on 29 September and 
10 October 1944 and was distributed about 1 March 1945. Incomplete coverage, 
varying altitudes of the planes, and cloudiness over parts of the island at the time 
prevented clear delineation, and certain portions of the map, including that of 
the high ground north of Shuri, had either poor topographic detail or none at 
all. Additional photographic coverage of the island was obtained on 3 and 22 
January, 28 February, and 1 March 1945; that of 22 January was excellent for the 
proposed landing beach areas. To supplement aerial photography a submarine 
was sent from Pearl Harbor to take pictures of all Okinawa beaches. The sub- 
marine never returned. 15 

14 Comdr Task Force 51, Comdr Amph Forces, U S Pac Fit. Rpt on Okinawa Gunto Opn from 17 
Feb to 17 May 45, 25 Jul 45 (hereafter cited as CTF 51 Actn Rpt), Pt. V, Sec. A, Int Rpt; Tenth 
Army Actn Rpt Ryukyus 26 Mar to 30 Jun 45, 3 Sep 45, Ch. 11, Sec. II, G-2 Rpt; interv 1st I & H 
Service Off with Lt Col James R. Weaver, G-2 Sec, Tenth Army, 10 Jul 45. 

is Q-pp Actn Rpt, Pt. V, Sec. A, p. 6 (hereafter cited bv part, section, and page as follows: V-A-6); 
interv 1st I & H Off with Lt Col James R. Weaver, G— 2 Sec, Tenth Army, 10 Jul 45. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



J 5 



Hydrographic information was complete, but its accuracy could not be 
checked until the target was reached. As the data agreed with a captured Japanese 
map they were presumed to be accurate. The most reliable information on the 
depth of the water over the reefs was obtained from Sonne Strip photography 
and was made available to the troops in March. 16 

The first estimate of enemy strength, made in October 1944, put the number 
of Japanese troops on Okinawa at 48,600, including two infantry divisions and 
one tank regiment. 17 In January 1945 this estimate was raised to 55,000, with the 
expectation that the Japanese would reinforce the Okinawa garrison to 66,000 
by 1 April 1945. At the end of February, however, the January estimate was still 
entertained. All these figures were based on interpretation of aerial photographs 
and on the use of standard Japanese Tables of Organization: there was no docu- 
mentary evidence corroborating the estimate of the number of troops on the 
island. 18 

It was believed that the Japanese had moved four infantry divisions to the 
Ryukyus during 1944. These were identified as the gth, 62d, 24th, and 28th 
Divisions. Army intelligence learned that one division, perhaps the gth, had 
been moved from Okinawa to Formosa in December 1944. In March 1945 
American intelligence estimated that the Japanese forces on Okinawa consisted 
of the following troops, which included 26 battalions of infantry : 

Headquarters 32c! Army 625 

24th Division (triangular) 15, 000-17, 000 

62c! Division (square) n, 500 

44th Independent Mixed Brigade 6, 000 

One independent mixed regiment 2, 500 

One tank regiment 750 

One medium artillery regiment, two mortar battalions, one anti- 
tank battalion, three antitank companies, and antiaircraft 

units 5, 875 

Air-ground personnel 3, 500 

Service and construction troops 5, 000-6, 000 

Naval-ground troops 3, 000 

Total 53, 000-56, 000 

10 III Amph Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, I Jul 45, p. 10. 

17 Comdr in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA) Joint Staff Study ICEBERG, Serial 00031, 25 Oct 
44, p. 8. 

18 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, 6 Jan 45. Annex 3, G-2 Current Estimates, p. 10; CINCPAC- 
CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, 28 Feb 45: Okinawa Gunto. p. 14. The only mention of possible civilian con- 
scription is in Tenth Army Estimate of the Situation, 3 Nov 44, p. 2. 



i6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



It was considered possible that elements of the gth and 28th Divisions might 
also be present on Okinawa proper. Enemy forces were known to be organized 
under the -p.d Army, commanded, it was thought, by General Watanabe, with 
headquarters at Naha. Shortly before the landings the estimate of Japanese 
troops was raised to 65,000 on the basis of long-range search-plane reports of 
convoy movements into Naha. 19 

Calculations based on Japanese Tables of Organization indicated that the 
enemy could be expected to have 198 pieces of artillery of 70-mm. or larger 
caliber, including twenty-four 150-mm. howitzers. 20 The Japanese were presumed 
to have also about 100 antitank guns of 37-mm. and 47-mm. caliber in addition 
to the guns carried on tanks. The tank regiment on Okinawa had, according 
to Japanese Tables of Organization, 37 light and 47 medium tanks, but one 
estimate in March placed the total number of tanks at 90. Intelligence also 
indicated that rockets and mortars up to 250 mm. could be expected. 21 

Aerial photographs disclosed three main defense areas on Okinawa, center- 
ing in Naha, the Hagushi beaches, and the Yonabaru-Nakagusuku Bay area on 
the east coast. Prepared positions for four infantry regiments were noted along 
the bay; for one regiment, behind the Hagushi beaches; and for one battalion, 
along the beaches at Machinato above Naha. It was believed that a total of five 
or six battalions of troops would be found in the northern part of Okinawa and 
Ie Shima and that two divisions would be concentrated in southern Okinawa. 
The main strength of the Japanese artillery was believed to be concentrated in 
two groups — one about two miles east of Yontan airfield and the other about 
three miles due south of Shuri; the probable presence of guns was deduced from 
the spoil which had been deposited in front of cave or tunnel entrances on the 
slopes of ridges in a manner suitable for gun emplacements. 22 

At the end of March 1945 intelligence indicated that there were four opera- 
tional airfields on Okinawa — at Naha, Yontan, Kadena, and Machinato; the 
first two were the best. All were heavily defended with numerous antiaircraft 
and dual purpose gun emplacements. The Yonabaru strip, which had been in an 
initial stage of construction in October 1944, was reported as having been aban- 

19 XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 3 ICEBERG, 6 Mar 45; XXIV Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 1 Apr 45- 
30 Jun 45, p. 116. 

20 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, p. 14. 

21 XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 3; CINCPOA Joint Staff Study ICEBERG; Comdr Amph Forces 
Pacific Fleet (CTF 51) Opn Plan Ai-45, 16 Feb 45, Annex B: Int Plan. 

22 CTF 51 Opn Plan Ai-45, Annex B: Int Plan; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, PP- 8~ 12 ', 
CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 161-44, 15 Nov 44, pp. 110-12. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



17 



doned by February 1945. Apparently not intending to defend Ie Shima very 
determinedly, the Japanese, in the latter part of March, were reported to have 
rendered the airfield there unusable by digging trenches across the runways. 23 
Land-based enemy aircraft on Okinawa was not expected to constitute a danger; 
the Americans fully expected that the airfields would be neutralized by the time 
they invaded the island. It was reported on 29 March, however, that enemy 
fighter and transport planes were being flown in at night to the Kadena airfield. 
On 31 March no activity was observed on any of the Okinawa airfields. It was 
constantly stressed that heavy enemy air attacks would probably be launched 
from Kyushu, 350 miles to the north. The potential threat of small suicide boats 
against shipping was also pointed out. 24 

Tenth Army believed that the most critical terrain for the operation was the 
area between the Ishikawa Isthmus and the Chatan-Toguchi line, particularly 
the high ground inland which dominates the Hagushi beaches and the valley 
of the Bishi River. The enemy could defend the beaches from prepared positions 
with one regiment, maintaining mobile reserves in the hills north and south of 
the river. Other reserves could be dispatched to the landing area within a few 
hours. It was expected that the Japanese would wait until the night of L Day to 
move their artillery. Alerted by American preliminary operations, they might 
have a division in position ready for a counterattack on the morning of the land- 
ings. From terrain 3,000 yards inland that offered both cover and concealment, the 
Japanese could launch counterattacks of division strength against both flanks 
of the landing area simultaneously. If the landings were successful, the enemy's 
main line of resistance, manned by a force of from nine to fifteen battalions, 
was expected to be at the narrow waist of the island, from Chatan to Toguchi, 
south of the landing beaches. 20 

The Plan of Attack^ 

The plan for the conquest of the Ryukyus was in many respects the culmi- 
nation of the experience of all previous operations in the Pacific war. It em- 
bodied the lessons learned in the long course of battle against the Japanese out- 

23 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, pp. 15-24; USAFPOA G-2 Objective Data Section, 1 Feb 
45: Study of Okinawa Gunto; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, Ch. 7, Sec. IV, p. 1 (hereafter cited by chapter, 
section, and page as follows: 7— IV— 1). 

24 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 3: G-2 Current Estimates; 96 Div FO No. 12, 5 Mar 
45, Annex 4, App. 1, p. 3; Tenth Army Opns Summary No. 10, 29 Mar 45, and No. 16, 31 Mar 45. 

25 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 3 : G-2 Current Estimates. 




AMERICAN COMMANDERS in Operation ICEBERG: Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, 
Fleet Admiral Chester W . Nimitz, and Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buc\ner. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



r 9 



posts in the Pacific — lessons of cooperation and combined striking power of the 
services, of the technique of amphibious operations, and of Japanese tactics and 
methods of meeting them. The plan for ICEBERG brought together an ag- 
gregate of military power — men, guns, ships, and planes — that had accumulated 
during more than three years of total war. The plan called for joint operations 
against the inner bastion of the Japanese Empire by the greatest concentration 
of land, sea, and air forces ever used in the Pacific. 
Basic Features of the Plan 

The immediate task imposed upon the American forces by the terms of 
the general mission was the seizure and development of Okinawa and the estab- 
lishment of control of the sea and air in the Ryukyus. The campaign was divided 
into three phases. The seizure of southern Okinawa, including Keise Shima and 
islands in the Kerama Group, and the initiation of the development of base 
facilities were to constitute the first phase. In the next phase Ie Shima was to be 
occupied and control was to be established over northern Okinawa. The third 
phase consisted of the seizure and development of additional islands in the 
Nansei Shoto for use in future operations. The target date of the operation was 
set at i March 1945. 26 

Planning began in October 1944. The general scheme for Operation ICE- 
BERG was issued in the fall of 1944 by Admiral Nimitz as Commander in Chief, 
Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA). The strategic plan outlined was based on 
three assumptions. First, the projected campaign against Iwo Jima would have 
progressed to such an extent that naval fire-support and close air-support units 
would be available for the assault on Okinawa. Second, the necessary ground 
and naval combat units and assault shipping engaged in the Philippines would 
be released promptly by General MacArthur for the Okinawa campaign. Third, 
preliminary air and naval operations against the enemy would ensure control of 
the air in the area of the target during the operation. 27 

Air superiority was the most important factor in the general concept of the 
operation as outlined by Admiral Nimitz's staff. The CINCPOA planners be- 
lieved that American air attacks on Japan, from carriers and from airfields in 
the Marianas, combined with the seizure of Iwo Jima, would force a concen- 
tration of enemy air strength around the heart of the Empire — on the home 
islands, Formosa, the China coast, and the Ryukyus. From these bases, strong 

29 CINCPOA Joint Staff Study ICEBERG, p. i. This was not a directive but a basis for planning the 
operation. 
27 Ibid. 




TWENTIETH AIR 
FORCE 

GEN. it. H. ARHOLD 







1 


NORTH PACIFIC 




SOUTH PACIFIC 


FORCE 




FORCE 


yiOt ADMIRAL 




VICt ApMIttAL 


ft / M. 


ileum 







LI. S, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF 



IT 



CHINA THEATER 
FORCES 

< £ C 



Z 



PACIFIC OC 
FOI 



AIR FORCE 
PACIFIC FLEET 



C- O. Afl/KfMV 



T 



SOUTHWEST PACIFIC 
AREA FORCES 

G£N. ix macarthur 



SERVICE FORCE 
PACIFIC FLEET 



«H41t UiMtK W 

r. r. mim 



U- 5. ARMY FORCES 
PACIFIC OCF.AN 
AREAS 

i.r. cew. 

K. C. HKHAftDSOS. IR. 



FORWARD AREA 
CENTRAL PACIFIC 
FORCE 

VtcL ADMIRAL 
!. H. noove* 



GILBERTS- 
MARSHALL* FORCE 

RIAR ADMIRAL 
\T. K. HARRSLL 



STRATEGIC 
AIR FORCES 
POA 

MA}. CtS. 
W , }i. HALL 



RYUKYUS FORCE 
(AFTER AMPHIBIOUS 
PHASE) 

LI. OS.S. 
s, B. Bl-CKNER 



CENTRAL PACIFIC 
TASK. FORCES 



ADMIRAL 
fL A. SFRL'AKLE 



SUBMARINE FORCE 
PACIFIC FLEET 

VtCt ADMIRAL 
C. A. LOCKWDQD 



StHnt; CdmtJH«id»r in Chief. V. 5- PwiSc Fl«i end Pidfit Onun 

ftlfiflV April \W r PU<* 1, *typ< p 76 (wiih iid .ij 1 1 ii s 3< i n i j . 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



21 



and continuous air attacks would be made against the forces invading the 
Ryukyus. It would be necessary, therefore, to neutralize or destroy enemy air 
installations not only at the target but also at the staging areas in Kyushu and 
Formosa. All available carrier- and land-based air forces would be called on to 
perform this task and give the Americans the control of the air required in the 
area of operations. On Okinawa itself, the scheme of maneuver of the ground 
troops would be such as to gain early use of airfields that would enable land- 
based planes to maintain control of the air in the target area. Control of the 
sea was to be maintained by submarine, surface, and air attacks on enemy naval 
forces and shipping. 28 

The American Forces 

The isolation of Okinawa was to be. effected with the aid of land-based air 
forces of commands outside the Pacific Ocean Areas (POA). Planes from the 
Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) were to engage in searches and continuous 
strikes against Formosa as soon as the situation on Luzon permitted. Twentieth 
Air Force B-29's from China and the Marianas were to bomb Formosa, Kyushu, 
and Okinawa during the month preceding the landings. The China-based XX 
Bomber Command was to concentrate on Formosa, while the XXI Bomber 
Command from the Marianas would attack Okinawa and then shift to Kyushu 
and other vulnerable points in the home islands during the fighting on Okinawa. 
The Fourteenth Air Force was to conduct searches along the China coast and 
also, if practicable, bomb Hong Kong. 29 

All the forces in Admiral Nimitz's command were marshaled in support 



of the ICEBERG Operation. |(See Chart The Strategic Air Forces, POA 



was assigned the task of neutralizing enemy air bases in the Carolines and the 
Bonins, of striking Okinawa and Japan when practicable, and of providing 
fighter cover for Twentieth Air Force bombing missions against Japan. The 
Commander, Forward Areas Central Pacific, was to use his naval air strength 
to provide antisubmarine coverage, neutralize bypassed enemy bases, and, in 
general, furnish logistic support. Provision of intelligence on enemy naval units 
and interdiction of the sea approaches from Japan and Formosa were the tasks 
of the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. The enemy was to be contained in the 
North Pacific Area, and the lines of communication were to be secured in the 
Marshalls-Gilberts area. Logistic support was to be provided by General Rich- 

28 Ibid., pp. 2—4. 

29 Fifth Fleet Opn Plan 1-45,3)3045, Annex E : Air Plan. 



CHART H 



on of Central Pacific Tas{ Forces for the Ryukjus 
January 1945 



CENTRAL PACIFIC 
TASK. FORCES 

ADMIRAL R, A, SPRUANCE 



COVERING FORCES AND 
SPECIAL GROUPS 
{TASK FORCE SO) 

ADMIRAL R, A, SPRUASCE 

FAST CARRIER FORCE 
(TASK FORCE IB) 
HRITISH CARRIER FORCE 
(TASK. FORCE 57) 



JOfNT 
EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 
(TASK FORCE Si) 

VICE ADMIRAL R. fc TURNER 



AMPHIBIOUS SUPPORT 
FORCE 
(task. ruRCE m 

RE4R ADMIRAL 
V. tt. P. BLANDY 



WESTERN ISLANDS 
ATTACK GROUP 

REAR 4HMIRAL 

i, ,v ku.aivp 

LANDING FORCE 
77TH DJ VISION 



CUNFIRt AND 
COVERING FORCt 
(TASK FORCF. S4j 

REAR AOMIRAL 
M. L. UHYO 



(TASK FOHt* vii 
REAR A0MIRAI 

LANDING FORCE 
ill AMPHIBIOUS CDflPS 



(TASK FORCfi 1«) 

1ST, GEN. 
J. B. BUCKS CR r JR. 



SOUTH ERN ATTACK 
FORCE 

(TASK FOR IE S<>\ 
RLAtt AOM IRAL 

/. I , HALL, IR. 

LANDING FORCE 
SXJV LOR PS 



DEMONSTRATION GROUP 

REAR ADMIRAL 

j. Wright 

LANDING EOR'GS 
315 MARINE DIVISION 



SWii,- Comnundcr in Chtff, U. S. Pi.lIi. Fke. arid Piiirii O^an Areas, Op< r jti«n* in the 
PldfrL Gam Artai, April l<W>. PIil« J ind If. ottP. [J. ^0 iwith ndppliliuilO. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



2 3 



ardson's United States Army Forces, POA (USAFPOA), the Air and Service 
Forces, Pacific Fleet, and the South Pacific Force. All the armed forces in the 
Pacific Ocean Areas, from the West Coast to Ulithi and from New Zealand to 
the Aleutians, were directed to support the attack on Okinawa. 30 

The principal mission in seizing the objective was assigned to a huge joint 
Army-Navy task force, known as the Central Pacific Task Forces and com- 
manded by Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander of the Fifth Fleet. 
(See Chart II. )| Admiral Spruance's forces consisted of naval covering forces and 
special groups (Task Force 50), which he personally commanded, and a Joint 
Expeditionary Force (Task Force 51), commanded by Vice Admiral Richmond 
K. Turner, Commander, Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet. General Buckner, 
Commanding General, Tenth Army, was to lead the Expeditionary Troops 
(Task Force 56) under Admiral Turner's direction. 31 

Command relationships prescribed for the operation differed in some 
respects from those in previous operations against island positions remote from 
Japan. Because the campaign would entail prolonged ground combat activities 
by a field army on a large island close to the enemy's homeland, it was necessary 
to define clearly the relationships between Army and Navy commanders for the 
successive phases of the operation. Admiral Nimitz accordingly provided that 
initially the chain of command for amphibious operations would be Admiral 
Spruance, Admiral Turner, General Buckner. However, when Admiral Spru- 
ance determined that the amphibious phases of the operation had been success- 
fully completed, General Buckner was to assume command of all forces ashore. 
He was thereafter to be directly responsible to Admiral Spruance for the defense 
and development of the captured positions. In time, Admiral Spruance would 
be relieved by Admiral Nimitz of these responsibilities, and General Buckner 
would take over complete command of the forces in the Ryukyus. As Com- 
mander, Ryukyus Force, a joint task force of ground, air, and naval garrison 
troops, he would be responsible only to CINCPOA for the defense and develop- 
ment of the newly won bases and for the protection of the sea areas within 
twenty-five miles. 32 

Admiral Spruance, as commander of Task Force 50, had at his disposal Vice 
Admiral Mitscher's Fast Carrier Force (Task Force 58), a British Carrier Force 

30 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, 31 Dec 44, with changes to 20 Jul 45, p. 3; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns 
in the Pacific Ocean Areas during Apr 45, 16 Oct 45, Plate I. 

31 Rad CINCPOA to CG Tenth Army, 9 Oct 44, cited in Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 3-0-1. 

32 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex F: Command Relationships in Ryukyus Opn. 



CHART III 

Organization of Expeditionary Troops for the Ryukyus Campaign, 



EXPEDITIONARY TROOPS 
(TASK FORCE 56) 

LT. GEN. S. B. BUCKNER, JR 



ISLAND COMMAND 
(ARMY GARRISON 
FORCE) 

MAJ. GEN, 
F. G. WALLACE, 
USA 



T. 



XXIV CORPS 
(SOUTHERN LANDING 
FORCE) 

MAJ. GEN. 
J. R. HODGE. 
USA 



TACTICAL AIR FORCE 
RYUKYUS 

MAJ. GEN. 
F. P. MULCAHY, 
VSMC 



111 AMPHIBIOUS CORPS 

(MARINE) 
(NORTHERN LANDING 
FORCE) 

R^GEIGER 



NAVAL FORCES 
RYUKYUS 

REAR ADMIRAL 
C H. COBB, 



7TH DIVISION 
(RE1NF) 

MAJ. GEN, 
A. V. ARNOLD, 
USA 



96TH DIVISION 
(RE INF) 

MAJ. GEN. 
J. C BRADLEY, 
USA 



2D MARINE DIV 
(DEMONSTRATION 
LANDING FORCE) 

MAJ. GEN. 
T. E. WATSON, 
USMC 



1ST MARINE DIV 



MAJ. GEN. 
P. A. DEL VALLE, 
USMC 



6TH MARINE DIV 



MAJ, GEN 
L, C SHEPHERD. JR. 
USMC 



27TH DIVISION 
(FLOATING RESERVE) 

MAJ, GEN. 
G. W. GRtNER, JR., 
USA 



Scmrf. Commander T?i4t Forte ?l, Commander Amphibiou* Fum-i, U. S. pacific Fl*«, Reporp tm Okirmw* fcumn Oprrimini 
from 17 February In 17 May Lftft, Put I, pp. 1-4; Tenth Army Atriin Bejwrt ft} ukyus. It, Mar.h u> JO June 19-1%, Ch, i; 
Commander in Chief, U S. Pai-ibi FJcce ind P*rlfc Ocean At cm. Ofwmicn, in the Pteifir Cheap Art*,, April )<HS, 



77TH DIVIS 
(REINF) 
(WESTERN ISLANDS 
LANDING FORCE) 

MAJ, GEN. 
A, D. BRUCE, 
USA 



S 1ST DIVISION 
(AREA RESERVE 
UNDER CINCPOA) 

MAJ. GEN, 
P.J. MUELLER, 
USA 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



25 



(Task Force 57), special task groups for aerial search and reconnaissance and 
antisubmarine warfare, and fleet logistic groups. Task Force 58 had a major 
share of the mission of neutralizing Japanese air strength. Its fast carriers were 
to strike Kyushu, Okinawa, and adjacent islands in the middle of March, to 
remain in a covering position east of the target area during the week preceding 
the invasion, to support the landings with strikes and patrols, and to be prepared 
for further forays against Kyushu, the China coast, or threatening enemy sur- 
face forces. The British carriers, the first to participate in Pacific naval actions 
with the American fleet, were given the task of neutralizing air installations on 
the Sakishima Group, southwest of the Ryukyus, during the ten days before the 
landings. 33 

The Joint Expeditionary Force (Task Force 51) was directly charged with 
the capture and development of Okinawa and other islands in the group. It was 
a joint task force of Army, Navy, and Marine units and consisted of the Expe- 
ditionary Troops (Task Force 56 — |see Chart III} , shipping to transport them, 



and supporting naval and air units. Direct naval and air support for Task Force 
51 was to be furnished by its Amphibious Support Force (Task Force 52), made 
up of escort carriers, gunboat and mortar flotillas, mine sweepers, and under- 
water demolition teams, and by the Gunfire and Covering Force (Task Force 
54) of old battleships, light and heavy cruisers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts. 
The transports and tractor units of the Northern Attack Force (Task Force 53) 
and Southern Attack Force (Task Force 55) were to land the ground troops in 
the main assault on the Okinawa beaches, while a number of task groups were 
assigned the task of transporting the troops for subsidiary landings and the float- 
ing and area reserves. Task Force 51 also included a transport screen, a service 
and salvage group, and several specialized naval units. 34 

The troops who would assault the objectives constituted a field army, the 
Tenth Army, which had been activated in the United States in June 1944 and 
shortly thereafter had opened headquarters on Oahu. General Buckner formally 
assumed command in September 1944, having come to the new assignment 
from the command of the Alaskan Department, where for four years he had 
been organizing the American defenses in that area. His new stafT included 
many officers who had served with him in Alaska as well as some from the 
European Theater of Operations. The major components of Tenth Army were 

33 Fifth Fleet Opn Plan 1-45, pp. 1, 5, Annex E: Air Plan. 

34 CTF 51 Opn Plan Ai-45, 16 Feb 45, p. 1. 



26 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



XXIV Army Corps and III Amphibious Corps (Marine). The former con- 
sisted of the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions and was commanded by Maj. 
Gen. John R. Hodge, a veteran leader of troops who had met and defeated the 
Japanese on Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville, and Leyte. Ill Amphibious 
Corps included the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions and was headed by Maj. Gen. 
Roy S. Geiger, who had successfully directed Marine operations on Bougainville 
and Guam. Three divisions, the 27th and 77th Infantry Divisions and the 
2d Marine Division, were under the direct control of Tenth Army for use in 
special operations and as reserves. The area reserve, the 81st Infantry Division, 
was under the control of CINCPOA. Also assigned to Tenth Army for the pur- 
pose of defense and development of the objectives were a naval task group, the 
Tactical Air Force, and the Island Command. 35 

A total of 183,000 troops was made available for the assault phases of the 
operation. 36 About 154,000 of these were in the seven combat divisions, excluding 
the 81st Division, which remained in New Caledonia; all seven divisions were 
heavily reinforced with tank battalions, amphibian truck and tractor battalions, 
joint assault signal companies, and many attached service units. The five divisions 
committed to the initial landings totaled about 116,000. The 1st and 6th Marine 
Divisions, with 26,274 and 24,356 troops, respectively, each carried an attached 
naval construction battalion and about 2,500 replacements in addition to their 
other supporting combat and service units. The reinforced 7th, 77th, and 96th 
Divisions averaged nearly 22,000 men per division but each was about 1,000 
understrength in organic infantry personnel. The 27th, a reserve division, was 
reinforced to a strength of 16,143 but remained nevertheless almost 2,000 under- 
strength organically. The 2d Marine Division, also in Army reserve, numbered 
22,195/ 



(See Appendix C, Table No. 4.) 



Tenth Army, as such, had never directed any campaigns, but its corps and 
divisions had all been combat-tested before the invasion of the Ryukyus. XXIV 
Corps had carried out the conquest of Leyte, and III Amphibious Corps had 
captured Guam and Peleliu. The 7th Division had seen action on Attu, 
Kwajalein, and Leyte, the 77th on Guam and Leyte, and the 96th on Leyte. 
The 27th had taken part in the battles for the Gilberts and Marshalls and for 

3 ° Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, 6 Jan 45, pp. 1-1 o. 

36 CTF 51 Actn R ;;,!.. Pt. V, Table 1. 

37 Ibid., Tables 2a-2g: III Amph Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 1 Jul 45, p. 28; XXIV Corps Actn Rpt 
Ryukyus, p. 6; 7th Div Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 30 Jul 45, Annex I, App. B, pp. 1, 2; 27th Div Actn Rpt 
Ryukyus, 19 Jul 45, p. 10: 96th Div Actn Rpt Ryukyus, Ch. IX, p. 21. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



27 



Saipan. The 1st Marine Division had been one of the first to see action in the 
Pacific, on Guadalcanal, and had gone through the campaigns of Western New 
Britain and Peleliu. The 6th Marine Division had been activated late in 1944, 
but its regiments were largely made up of seasoned units that had fought on 
Guam, the Marshalls, and Saipan. The 2d Marine Division had participated 
in the fighting on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian. 

Plan for the Capture of Okinawa 

Using the CINCPOA Toint Staff Study as a basis, each of the major com- 
manders prepared his plans and issued his operation orders. Although each plan 
and operation order was derived from that of the next superior echelon, planning 
was always concurrent. The joint nature of the operation also required extensive 
coordination of the three services in all operational and logistical problems. Joint 
conferences thrashed out problems of troop lists, shipping, supplies, and strategy. 
Corps and task force commanders worked together on the plans for amphibious 
operations. Corps and division staffs were consulted and advised by Army for 
purposes of orientation and planning. To ensure interservice coordination, 
Navy and Marine officers were assigned to work with Tenth Army general 
and special staff sections. ih In some cases planning was facilitated by utilizing 
the results of work on other operations. Thus the naval staff developing the 
gunfire support plans was able to use the operations at Iwo Jima to test and 
strengthen the general command and communications framework, which was 
generally similar for both operations; in the same way Tenth Army logistical 
planners took advantage of their work on the canceled Formosa operation, 
adapting it to the needs of the Okinawa campaign. 39 

Out of these planning activities came extremely important decisions that 
modified and expanded the scope of proposed operations. Tenth Army found 
it necessary to enlarge the troop list by about 70,000 to include greater numbers 
of supporting combat elements and service units. Its staff presented and sup- 
ported a plan for initial assault landings on the west coast of Okinawa, just north 
and south of Hagushi, as the most feasible logistically and as consonant tactically 
with the requirements of CINCPOA. The naval staff insisted on the necessity 
of a sustained week-long naval bombardment of the target and on the consequent 
need for a protected anchorage in the target area where the fleet units could 
refuel and resupply. As a result it was decided to capture the Kerama Islands 

38 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, Ch. 3: Preliminary Planning. 

>! ' CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-C-i ; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-3, 4. 



28 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



just west of Okinawa, a week before the main landings, and the 77th Division 
was assigned this task. At the suggestion of Admiral Turner a landing was to 
be feinted on the eastern coast of the island, and the 2d Marine Division was 
selected for this operation. The commitment of these two reserve divisions 
impelled Tenth Army to secure the release of the area reserve division to the 
Expeditionary Troops, and the 27th Division was designated the floating reserve. 
In its place, as area reserve, the 81st Division was ordered to stand by in the South 
Pacific. Finally, CINCPOA was twice forced to set back the target date because 
delays in the Luzon operation created difficulty in maintaining shipping sched- 
ules and because unfavorable weather conditions appeared likely in the target 
area during March. L Day (landing day) was set for 1 April 1945. 40 

As finally conceived, the plan for the capture of Okinawa gave fullest 
opportunity for the use of the mobility, long range, and striking power of 
combined arms. After the strategic isolation of Okinawa had been effected by 
land- and carrier-based aircraft, the amphibious forces were to move forward 
to the objective. Task Force 52 (the Amphibious Support Force) and Task Force 
54 (the Gunfire and Covering Force), assisted by the fast carriers of Task 
Force 58, were to begin operations at Okinawa and the Kerama Group on L 
minus 8 (24 March). They were to destroy the enemy defenses and air installa- 
tions by naval gunfire and air strikes, clear the waters around the objective and 
the beaches of mines and other obstacles, and provide cover and protection 
against hostile surface and air units to ensure the safe and uninterrupted 
approach of the transports and the landings of the assault troops. After the 
landings they were to furnish naval support and air cover for the land 
operations. 41 

Mine sweepers were to be the first units of the Amphibious Support Force 
to arrive in the target area. Beginning on L minus 8, they were to clear the way 
for the approach of the bombardment units and then to sweep the waters in 
the landing and demonstration areas to the shore line/ 2 Underwater demolition 
teams were to follow the mine sweepers, reconnoiter the beaches, and demolish 
beach obstacles. 43 

Naval gunfire was to support the capture of Okinawa by scheduled destruc- 
tive bombardment in the week before the landings, by intensive close support 

40 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, Ch. 3 : Preliminary Planning. 

41 CTF 51 Opn Plan Ai-45, p. 35. 

,2 Ibid., Annex A; CTF 52 Actn Rpt Okinawa, 1 May 45, V-H-i. 
43 CTF 52 Actn Rpt, V-G-i. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



2 9 



of the main and subsidiary landings and the diversionary feint, and thereafter 
by delivering call and other support fires. The fire support ships with their 5- to 
16-inch guns were organized into fire support units, each consisting of 2 old 
battleships, 2 or 3 cruisers, and 4 or 5 destroyers, that were to stand off the 
southern part of the island in accordance with definite areas of responsibility. 
In view of the size of the objective and the impossibility of destroying all 
targets, fire during the prelanding bombardment was to be laid on carefully 
selected targets; the principal efforts were to be directed to the destruction of 
weapons threatening ships and aircraft and of the defenses opposing the 
landings. Profitable targets were at all times to be sought by close observation, 
exploratory firing, and constant evaluation of results. Covering fires were to 
be furnished in conjunction with fire from gunboats and mortar boats in 
support of mine-sweeping operations and beach demolitions. 44 

On L Day, beginning at 0600, the naval guns were to mass their fires on the 
beaches. Counterbattery and deep supporting fires were to destroy the defense 
guns and keep enemy reinforcements from moving up to oppose the landings. 
As the assault waves approached the beaches, the fires of the big guns would 
lift to targets in critical areas inland and to the exterior flanks of the troops. 
Mortar boats and gunboats were to lead the boat waves to the shore, delivering 
mortar and rocket fire on the beaches. All craft would begin 40-mm. fire on 
passing the line of fire support ships and would fire at will until H Hour. 45 
After the landings scheduled fire on areas 1,000 yards inland and on the 
flanks would be continued, but top priority would be given to call fires in 
direct support of the assault elements. 46 

All scheduled bombardments until H minus 35 minutes were to be under 
control of the commander of Task Force 52. After that time, because of the size 
of the landing forces and the extent of the beaches, the commanders of the 
Northern and Southern Attack Forces would assume control of the support of 
their respective landing forces. The commander of Task Force 51 was to remain 
responsible for the general coordination as well as the actual control of bombard- 
ment in the Army zone. By 1500 each day he would allocate gunfire support 
vessels for the succeeding twenty-four hours in accordance with approved 
requests from Army and Corps. 47 

44 CTF 51 Opn Plan Ai-45, Annex G: Ship's Gunfire Support Plan. 

45 Ibid., App. III. 

4B Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 6: Naval Gunfire Support. 
41 Ibid., CTF 51 Opn Plan Ai-45, Annex G: Ship's Gunfire Support Plan. 




MAP NO. 3 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



31 



Air support was to be provided largely by the fast carriers of Task Force 58 
and by the escort carriers of Task Force 52. The fast carriers were for the first 
time to be available at the target area for a prolonged period to furnish support 
and combat air patrols. They were to cover mine-sweeping operations, hit 
targets on Okinawa which could not be reached by naval gunfire, destroy enemy 
defenses and air installations, and strafe the landing beaches. The escort car- 
riers would provide aircraft for direct support missions, antisubmarine patrols, 
naval and artillery gunfire spotting, air supply, photographic missions, and the 
dropping of propaganda leaflets. After L Day additional support was to be 
furnished by seaplane squadrons based on the Kerama Islands and by the shore- 
based Tactical Air Force of the Tenth Army. 48 The latter was eventually to be 
responsible for the air defense of the area, being charged with gaining the neces- 
sary air superiority and giving tactical support to the ground troops. 41 ' 

Provision was made for the careful coordination of all naval gunfire, air 
support, and artillery both in the assault and in the campaign in general. Target 
information centers, to be established at army, corps, and division levels, would 
collect and disseminate data on all targets suitable for attack by the respective 
arms and keep a record of attacks actually carried out. In addition, at every 
echelon, from battalion to army, representatives of each support arm — artillery, 
naval gunfire, and air — were to coordinate the use of their respective arms for 
targets in their zones of action and advise their commanders on the proper 
employment of the various types of supporting fires. Requests for support would 
thus be coordinated and screened as they passed up through the various echelons 
for approval. 50 

Under cover of the sustained day and night attacks by the naval and air 
forces, the first phase of the campaign — the capture of the Kerama and Keise 
Islands and of the southern part of Okinawa — was to begin. On L minus 6, the 
Western Islands Attack Group was to land the reinforced 77th Division on the 
Kerama Islands. The seizure of these islands was designed to give the Joint 
Expeditionary Force, prior to the main assault on Okinawa proper, a base for 
logistic support of fleet units, a protected anchorage, and a seaplane base. Two 
regimental combat teams were to land on several of the islands simultaneously 
and to proceed from the southeast end of the group to the northeast by island- 

48 Q-pp Qp n pi an A 1-45, Annex H: Air Support Plan. 

49 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 7: Air Support Plan. 

50 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 5: Planning and Coordination of Artillery, Naval 
Gunfire and Air Support. 



3 2 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



hopping maneuvers, capturing Keise Island by L minus i. All hostile coastal 
defense guns that could interfere with the construction of the proposed naval 
bases were to be destroyed. Organized enemy forces would be broken up without 
attempting to clear the islands of snipers. Two battalions of 155-mm. guns were 
to be emplaced on Keise in order to give artillery support to the landings on 
the coast of Okinawa. Then, after stationing a small garrison force in the islands, 
the division would reembark and be prepared to execute the Tenth Army's 



reserve plans, giving priority to the capture of Ie Shima. 51 (See Map No. 3.) 

While the 77th Division was taking the lightly held Kerama Islands 
the preliminary operations for softening up Okinawa would begin; they would 
mount in intensity as L Day approached. Beginning on 28 March fire support 
units would close in on the island behind the mine sweepers and demolition 
teams. The Northern and Southern Attack Forces would arrive off the west 
coast early on L Day and land their respective ground forces at H Hour, tenta- 
tively set for 0830. Ill Amphibious Corps would land, two divisions abreast, on 
the left flank, north of the town of Hagushi at the mouth of the Bishi River: 
XXIV Corps would land, two divisions abreast, on the right flank, south of 
Hagushi. The four divisions in landing would be in the following order from 
north to south; 6th Marine Division, 1st Marine Division, 7th Division, and 96th 
Division. The two corps were then to drive across the island in a coordinated 
advance. The 6th Marine Division was first to capture the Yontan airfield and 
then to advance to the Ishikawa Isthmus, the narrow neck of the island, secur- 
ing the beachhead on the north by L plus 15. The 1st Marine Division was to 
head across the island and drive down the Katchin Peninsula on the east coast. 
South of the Corps' boundary, which ran eastward from the mouth of the Bishi, 
the 7th Division would quickly seize the Kadena airfield and advance to the east 
coast, cutting the island in two. The 96th was required initially to capture the 
high ground commanding its beaches on the south and southeast; then it was 
to move rapidly down the coastal road, capture the bridges near Chatan, and 
protect the right of the Corps. Continuing its attack, it was to pivot on its right 
flank to secure the beachhead on the south by L plus 10 on a line running across 
the isthmus below Kuba and Futema. 52 

The choice of the beaches north and south of Hagushi for the initial assault 
was made after a study by Tenth Army of all the landing beaches in southern 

n CTF 51 Opn Plan Ai-45, Annex A, pp. 35, 38; 77th Div Opn Plan ICEBERG, 18 Feb 45, Opn 
Plan I (Preferred Plan). 

"Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, pp. 12-13; XXIV Corps FO 45, 8 Feb 45: Preferred Plan, pp. 2-6. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



33 



Okinawa and a survey of several plans of action. The various plans were weighed 
in the light of the requirements of the CINCPOA Joint Staff Study and consid- 
erations of tactical and logistical feasibility. The preferred plan was finally 
chosen for a number of reasons. First, it would secure the necessary airfields by 
L plus 5. Second, it would provide the unloading facilities to support the assault. 
The Hagushi beaches were considered the only ones capable of handling suffi- 
cient tonnage to sustain a force of two corps and supporting troops, and this 
seemed to outweigh the disadvantages of not providing for the early capture of 
the port of Naha and the anchorage in Nakagusuku Bay. Third, the plan would 
result in separating the enemy forces. Fourth, it would concentrate the troops on 
one continuous landing beach opposite the point where the greatest enemy 
resistance was expected. Fifth, it would use the terrain least advantageous for 
enemy resistance to the landings. Finally, it would permit maximum fire support 
of the assault. 53 

The scheme of maneuver was designed to isolate the initial objective, the 
southern part of the island, by seizing the Ishikawa Isthmus, north of the land- 
ing beaches, to prevent enemy reinforcement from that direction. At the same 
time the establishment of a general east-west line from Kuba on the south would 
prevent reinforcement from the south. Thereafter, the attack was to be continued 
until the entire southern part of the island was occupied. 54 Ground commanders 
hoped that, for the first time in the Pacific, maneuver could be used to the utmost. 
The troops would cut across the island quickly, move rapidly to the south, 
break up the Japanese forces into small segments, bypass strong points, and mop 
up at leisure. 55 

While the troops were landing on the west coast, the 2d Marine Division 
would feint landings on the southeast coast. This demonstration, scheduled for 
L Day and to be repeated on L plus 1, would be as realistic as possible in order 
to deceive the enemy into believing that landings would be made there as 
well as on the Hagushi beaches. After the demonstration the division would 
be prepared to land on the Hagushi beaches in support of the assault forces. 56 

The 27th Division, as floating reserve, was to arrive at Ulithi not later than 
L plus 1 and be on call of the Commander, Joint Expeditionary Force. It was 

53 Tenth Army Estimate of the Situation ICEBERG, 3 Nov 44, pp. 6-1 1. 

54 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, p. 12. 

65 Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, CG Tenth Army, 21 Mar 45, and with Gen Hodge, 
CG XXIV Corps, 12 Mar 45. 

56 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, p. 13. 



34 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



to be prepared to seize the islands off the east coast of Okinawa and then to land 
on that coast in support of XXIV Corps. 07 

In case the preferred plan for landing on the west coast proved impracticable, 
an alternate plan was to be used. In this plan, the capture of the Kerama Islands 
was to be followed by a similar sweep through the small islands east of southern 
Okinawa that guarded the entrance to Nakagusuku Bay. On L Day two Marine 
divisions would land on the southeast coast of Okinawa, between Chinen Point 
and the town of Minatoga. During the next three days the marines were to 
seize high ground in the area in order to support a landing by two divisions 
of XXIV Corps on the lower part of Nakagusuku Bay, between Kuba and 
Yonabaru. Although the alternate plan met most of the requirements for a 
successful landing operation, it was distinctly a second choice because it would 
allow the enemy reserves to offer maximum opposition to the second landings 
and would require a prolonged assault against all the enemy forces on the 
island to complete the first phase of the mission. 58 
Psychological Warfare and Military Government 

Despite general skepticism as to the effectiveness of psychological warfare 
against the Japanese, 09 an attitude which resulted from its failure in many 
previous operations, the American plan called for an intensive effort to weaken 
the enemy's will to resist. Intelligence agencies prepared 5,700,000 leaflets to 
be dropped over Okinawa from carrier planes. More millions of leaflets were 
to be printed at the target and scattered over specific areas by bombs and shells. 
Tanks with amplifiers, an airplane with an ultraloud speaker, and remotely 
controlled radios dropped behind enemy lines would also tell the enemy why 
and how he should surrender. 60 

The plans for psychological warfare were also directed toward influencing 
the Okinawans, and in this connection there was greater optimism. Because 
the Okinawans were of a different stock and culture from the Japanese, and 
had been treated by their rulers as inferiors rather than as elements to be 
assimilated to Japanese nationalism and militarism, it was hoped that the 
civilians would not be as hostile, or at any rate as fanatical, as the Japanese. 

'"' Ibid., pp. 13-14. 

'" s lbid., Annex 18; Tenth Army Estimate of the Situation ICEBERG, pp. 9, 11. Plan Baker was the 
basis for the alternate plan. 

^Interv with Gen Buckner, CG, Tenth Army, 21 Mar 45, Command Ship El Dorado, off Leyte, 
and with Gen Hodge, CG, XXIV Corps, 12 Mar 45, Leyte; interv with 2d Lt Alfred S. Yudkoff, Combat 
Propaganda Team en route to Okinawa, — Mar 45. 

60 Tentative Opn Plan, ICEBERG, Annex 5, "Intelligence Plan," pp. 1-15. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



35 



The Okinawans also presented the American planners with the problem of 
military government. The problem was twofold — that of removing the 
Okinawans from the front lines and that of caring for them; it was necessary 
to handle the problem in such a way as to facilitate military operations and to 
make available to the occupying forces the labor and economic resources of the 
areas. Approximately 300,000 natives lived in southern Okinawa; thousands of 
others were in the north and on near-by islands. Never before in the Pacific 
had Americans faced the task of controlling so many enemy civilians. 

Basic responsibility for military government in the conquered Japanese 
islands devolved on the Navy, and Admiral Nimitz was to assume the position 
of Military Governor of the Ryukyus. However, in view of the fact that most of 
the garrison forces were Army troops, Admiral Nimitz delegated the responsi- 
bility to General Buckner. The latter planned to control military government 
operations during the assault phase through his tactical commanders; corps and 
division commanders were made responsible for military government in the 
areas under their control and were assigned military government detachments 
whose mission was to plan and organize civilian activities behind the fighting 
fronts. As the campaign progressed and increasing numbers of civilians were 
encountered, teams attached to military government headquarters of Tenth 
Army would assume charge, organize camps, and administer the program on 
an island-wide basis. During the garrison phase the Island Commander, on order 
of General Buckner, would exercise command over all military government 
personnel. Maj. Gen. Fred C. Wallace would act through a Deputy Commander 
for Military Government, Brig. Gen. W. E. Crist. 61 

The major problem of Military Government was to feed and provide emer- 
gency medical care for the approximately 300,000 civilians who were expected 
to be within the American lines by L plus 40. Each of the combat divisions 
mounted out with 70,000 civilian rations of such native staples as rice, soy beans, 
and canned fish and also with medical supplies. Military Government personnel 
would land in the wake of assault units to handle a huge "disaster relief" pro- 
gram. Additional supplies of all kinds were to be included in the general main- 
tenance shipments. 02 

61 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex G; Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 15: Military 
Government; Tenth Army Opnl Directive No. 7, 6 Jan 45; Tenth Army Tech Bull Mil Govt, 25 Feb 45, p. 
5; Tenth Army Mil Govt Opn Rpt, 2 Aug 45. 

'Tentative Opn Plan, ICEBERG, "Military Government Plan," Annex 15, pp. 1-5. Cf. App. I, Table 
of Population. 



36 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Mounting the Attac\ 

Organizing the Supply Line 

The planning and execution of ICEBERG presented logistical problems of 
a magnitude greater than any previously encountered in the Pacific. For the 
assault echelon alone, about 183,000 troops and 747,000 measurement tons of 
cargo were loaded into over 430 assault transports and landing ships at 11 differ- 
ent ports, from Seattle to Leyte, a distance of 6,000 miles. (See Appendix C, 



Tables Nos. 4 and^i After the landings, maintenance had to be provided for 
the combat troops and a continuously increasing garrison force that eventually 
numbered 270,000. Concurrently, the development of Okinawa as an advanced 
air and fleet base and mounting area for future operations involved supply and 
construction programs extending over a period of many months subsequent to 
the initial assault. Close integration of assault, maintenance, and garrison ship- 
ping and supply was necessary at all times. 63 

Factors of distance dominated the logistical picture. Cargo and troops were 
lifted on the West Coast, Oahu, Espiritu Santo, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, 
the Russell Islands, Saipan, and Leyte, and were assembled at Eniwetok, Ulithi, 
Saipan, and Leyte. The closest Pacific Ocean Area bases were at Ulithi and the 
Marianas, 5 days' sailing time to Okinawa (at 10 knots). The West Coast, which 
furnished the bulk of resupply, was 6,250 nautical miles away, or 26 days' sailing 
time. Allowing 30 days to prepare and forward the requisitions, 60 days for pro- 
curement and loading on the West Coast, and 30 days for sailing to the target, 
the planners were faced with a 120-day interval between the initiation of their 
calculations and the arrival of supplies. This meant in practice that requisitioning 
had to be started before a Troop Basis had been fixed and the details of the 
tactical plans worked out. Distance, moreover, used up ships and compelled the 
adoption of a schedule of staggered supply shipments, or "echelons," as well as 
a number of other improvisations. Mounting the troops where they were sta- 
tioned, in the scattered reaches of the Pacific Ocean and Southwest Pacific 
Areas, required close and intricate timing to have them at the target at the 
appointed moment. 64 

Broad logistic responsibilities for the support of ICEBERG were assigned 
by Admiral Nimitz to the various commanders chiefly concerned. Admiral 
Turner, as commander of the Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet, furnished the 

63 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, I-5, 6, 7, and V-I-12; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-1, 2. 

64 CINCPOA Joint Staff Study, p. 29; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, n-IV-1-12; Com Phibs Pac Op Ord Ai-45. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



37 



shipping for the assault troops and their supplies, determined the loading sched- 
ules, and was responsible for the delivery of men and cargo to the beaches. Gen- 
eral Buckner allocated assault shipping space to the elements of his command 
and was responsible for landing the supplies and transporting them to the 
dumps. The control of maintenance and garrison shipping, which was largely 
loaded on the West Coast, was retained by CINCPOA. Responsibility for both 
the initial supply and the resupply of all Army troops was assigned to the Com- 
manding General, Pacific Ocean Areas, while the Commanders, Fleet Marine 
Force, Service Force, and Air Force of the Pacific Fleet were charged with 
logistic support of Marine, Navy, and naval aviation units. The initial supplies 
for the troops mounting in the South Pacific and the Southwest Pacific were 
to be furnished by the commanders of those areas. 65 

The first phase of supply planning involved the preparation of special lists 
of equipment required for the operation, which included excess Tables of Equip- 
ment items, equipment peculiar to amphibious operations, and base development 
materials. Such lists, or operational projects as they were known, had been pre- 
pared for the projected Formosa operation; when this was canceled the projects 
were screened and reduced to meet the needs of ICEBERG. 68 

At a very early stage in the planning it became evident that there was a short- 
age of available shipping. The number of combat and service troops included in 
the initial Troop Basis far exceeded the capacity of allocated shipping. As a 
result, tonnage had to be reduced for some units while other units were elim- 
inated entirely from the assault echelon and assigned space in the next echelon. 
Later, in January 1945, it became apparent that there was still not enough ship- 
ping space in the assault echelon to transport certain air units and base develop- 
ment materials designed for early use. It was necessary to request CINCPOA to 
increase the over-all allocation of LST's and LSM's, as well as to curtail cargo 
tonnage and provide for the quick return of LST's to Saipan to load eight naval 
construction battalions. 67 

Providing the assault troops with their initial supplies was not a difficult 
problem as generally there were sufficient stocks on hand at each of the mounting 
areas. When the assault units embarked, they took with them a 30-day supply of 
rations, essential clothing and equipment, fuel, and medical and construction 

66 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, pp. 1, 2, 20, 21. 
66 Tenth Army Actn Rpr, 11-IV-3, 4. 
"Ibid., 5-0-4, u-IV-8. 



3« 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



supplies. Initial ammunition quotas consisted of five CINCPOA units of fire. 68 
On Leyte, XXIV Corps found that SWPA logistics agencies did not have suffi- 
cient rations on hand to supply it as required, and the shortage was overcome by 
having the Corps joined at Okinawa by two LST's loaded with rations from 
Tenth Army reserve stocks in the Marianas. 09 

Equipment issued to the troops included weapons and instruments of war 
never before used against the Japanese. New-type flame-thrower tanks, with 
an increased effective range and a larger fuel capacity, were available for the 
invasion. Each division was issued no sniperscopes and 140 snooperscopes, 
devices for seeing in the dark by means of infrared radiation; the former were 
mounted on carbines and permitted accurate night firing, while the latter were 
on hand-held mounts and could be used for night observation and signaling. 
Army artillery and antiaircraft units used proximity (VT) fuzes over land 
areas for the first time in the Pacific. During the campaign tests were conducted 
with a new mortar-locating device, the Sound Locator Set GR-6, and the 57-mm. 
and 75-mm. recoilless rifles and 4.2-inch recoilless mortars. 70 

Supplies to maintain the troops at the target were scheduled to arrive in 
twenty-one shipments from the West Coast. Loaded ships were to sail from 
Pacific ports at 10-day intervals, beginning on L minus 40 (20 February 1945), 
and to arrive at the regulating stations at Ulithi and Eniwetok beginning on 
L minus 5, there to await the call of General Buckner. These maintenance 
shipments, planned to provide automatic resupply until L plus 210 (31 October 
1945), were based on the estimated population build-up at the scheduled time 
of arrival. The principal emergency reserves were kept at Saipan and Guam. 71 

The main logistical task of the operation, in Admiral Nimitz's opinion, was 
the rapid development of air and naval bases in the Ryukyus to support further 
operations against Japan. The Base Development Plan for Okinawa, published 
by CINCPOA, provided for the construction of eight airfields on Okinawa, two 
of which were to be operational by L plus 5, a seaplane base, an advanced fleet 

68 A CINCPOA U/F was a balanced assortment of ammunition based on Central Pacific experience. 
It included, among other types, 100 rounds for the Mi Rifle, 1,500 for the .30-caliber machine gun, 600 
for the .50-caliber machine gun, 275 for the 60-mm. and 81-mm. mortars, 250 for the 105 -mm. howitzer 
M2, and 150 for the 155-mm. howitzer. See Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 13, A,pp. B, Incl 1, 
for the complete description of CINCPOA U/F, 6 Dec 44. 

69 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, pp. 4-11; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-11; interv 1st 
I & H Off with Brig Gen David H. Blakelock, ACofS G-4, Tenth Army, 22 May 45. 

70 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 1 1— III— 8, 9; u-XIV-15; USAFPOA, Participation in the Okinawa Opera- 
tion, I, 63, 240. See also below, [pp. 256-57. | 

73 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, pp. 8-12; Tenth Armv Actn Rpt. 11-IV-5. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



39 



base at Nakagusuku Bay, and the rehabilitation of the port of Naha to accom- 
modate support shipping. Base development responsibilities also included 
immediate support of the assault by the early construction of tank farms for the 
bulk storage of fuel and for the improvement of waterfront unloading facilities 
and of roads. Later a large construction program was planned that included 
roads, dumps, hospitals, communications facilities, water supply systems, and 
housing and recreational facilities. A plan for the development of Ie Shima as 
an advanced air base was also prepared. 72 

General Buckner was charged with the responsibility for base development 
in the Ryukyus. Assigned to Tenth Army for the execution of the Base Develop- 
ment Plan was the Island Command Okinawa, or Army Garrison Force, with 
Maj. Gen. Fred C. Wallace in command. Some of the Island Command troops 
were to land in the assault echelon and to provide logistic support for the assault 
troops during and immediately after the landings. At the conclusion of the am- 
phibious phase, the Island Command was to act as Tenth Army's administrative 
and logistical agency, operating in effect as an Army service command and an 
advanced section of the communications zone. As such, it was to be in charge 
of the base development program as well as of the garrisoning and defense of 
the captured positions. Garrison troops and base development materials were 
scheduled to arrive at Okinawa in seventeen echelons. These were based pri- 
marily on the unloading capacity of the Hagushi beaches; the tonnage in each 
echelon was kept within the estimated discharge capacity between the arrivals 
of the echelons. Most of this garrison shipping was loaded on the West Coast 
and Oahu, but some originated in the South Pacific and the Marianas. 73 

Training and Rehearsal of Troops 

The great distances that separated the elements of its command, together 
with the limited time available, precluded combined training or rehearsal by 
Tenth Army of the maneuver which would land two corps abreast on a hostile 
shore. To the extent that circumstances permitted, however, the scattered units 
of the Tenth Army engaged in individual training, combined-arms training, 
and special training in amphibious, cave, and mountain warfare. Particular 
efforts were made to train ground troops in the use of the new snooperscopes 

" CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in the POA during May 45, p. 46; CINCPOA Joint Staff Study, App. 
E; CINCPOA Base Development Plan LEGUMINOUS, Serial 000221, 10 Feb 45 (LEGUMINOUS was the 
code name for the base development of Okinawa); Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11— IV— 7. 

73 CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, p. 36, and Annex F, pp. 1,2; Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, 
Annex 12: Island Command Plan; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 5-0-8, 9; 11-IV-6, 9, 10; ii-XXVI-i. 



40 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



and sniperscopes, and the one standard tank battalion which was converted 
to an armored flame thrower battalion received instruction in the use and main- 
tenance of its tanks. Many service units received little specialized training 
because of the pressure of their regular duties and, in some cases, the circum- 
stance that they had been released to Tenth Army only a few days before 
mounting from Hawaii. 74 

When, in December 1944, XXIV Corps received its warning order, it was 
in action over a large part of southern Leyte, engaged in virtually separate 
operations on the east and west coasts of the island. The Corps was not released 
from tactical responsibility until 10 February 1945, and it did not complete 
the assembly of all its units in the staging area at Dulag until 18 February. 
Training and rehearsals had to be sandwiched between the rehabilitation 
program for its combat-weary units and the mounting-out for the new operation. 
The 7th, 77th, and 96th Divisions were able to engage only in a very limited 
amount of training specifically oriented to the Okinawa operation, but all 
managed to train in the use of the sniperscope and of flame throwers. The Corps 
was, however, able to engage in a full-scale nonfinng rehearsal with the 7th and 
96th Divisions and amphibious elements of the Southern Attack Force in Leyte 
Gulf from 15 to 19 March 1945. In addition to training in the techniques of 
amphibious landings, the troops practiced the breaching and scaling of sea 
walls. Assault regiments of the two divisions landed and moved inland for 
1,000 yards in a simulated attack, after which critiques were held and the exercise 
repeated. The 77th Division conducted practice landings separately in Leyte 
Gulf from 9 to 16 March. The 27th was able to engage in intensive training in 
Espiritu Santo between October 1944 and 25 March 1945, when it embarked 
for the target; four landing rehearsals were also held between 20 and 25 March. 75 

All the Marine divisions scheduled for the Okinawa campaign had sev- 
eral months in which to train and rehearse. The 1st Marine Division, finding 
training facilities restricted in the Russell Islands, arranged for each of its regi- 
ments to take a month's training on Guadalcanal, where adequate artillery, 
mortar, and small-arms ranges were available. The 6th Marine Division trained 
on Guadalcanal, conducting numerous division problems and field exercises. On 
Saipan the 2d Marine Division had the advantage of practicing against the Jap- 
anese still holed up in the hills. The III Amphibious Corps conducted a combined 

14 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 4-0-1-6, 1 1— III— 8, 9. 

75 XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 4, 6, 8, 18; 7th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 4, 28, 29; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. 
V, pp. 1, 2; 77th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 8, 19; 27th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 18-21. 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



4 1 



rehearsal with the ist and 6th Marine Divisions at Guadalcanal from 2 to 7 
March; full-scale problems were worked out, troops and token supplies were 
landed, and a communications net established. 70 

Mounting Out 

Responsibility for the loading of the assault units was decentralized through 
delegation to the commanders at the various mounting points; the Commanding 
General, Tenth Army, however, retained control of the mounting of units from 
Oahu. The commanders of the III Amphibious Corps and XXIV Corps were 
responsible for embarking their respective troops in the South Pacific and Leyte. 
The 2d Marine Division supervised the loading of its own troops and other units 
mounting from Saipan. Units which originated on the West Coast were moved 
to the assigned mounting points for integration with the assault echelon. 77 

All loading was conducted according to the transport doctrine of the Am- 
phibious Forces Pacific Fleet and the logistical directives published by Tenth 
Army. One transport squadron of fifteen APA's (transports) and six AKA's 
(cargo ships), together with the requisite number of LST's and LSM's, was 
allocated to each division, and additional allocations were made for Corps and 
Army troops. |(See Chart IV.)| Altogether, 111 APA's, 47 AKA's, 184 LST's, and 
89 LSM's were loaded in mounting the Joint Expeditionary Force. Transport 
Quartermaster Teams were activated and assigned to Army units to load their 
troops and equipment, while Marine units used the teams which had functioned 
in previous operations. Admiral Turner also sent two combat loading teams, 
trained in embarkation procedures and familiar with the policies of his com- 
mand, to aid in the loading of the two corps at Leyte and the Guadalcanal- 
Russells area and of the 27th Division at Espiritu Santo. All loading plans and 
operations were subject to the approval of the captain of each ship as well as of 
the transport squadron commander concerned. 78 

Tenth Army headquarters and most of its attached troops mounted out of 
Hawaii, while the 7th, 77th, and 96th Divisions embarked at Leyte, where the 
largest number of ships was loaded. Each division did its own loading under 
general supervision of the Corps. The chief difficulty encountered was the 
necessity of loading across the open beaches in the Dulag area on the east coast 
of Leyte. Piers were nonexistent or of too flimsy a construction to withstand 
the battering which they took in the high surf and tide. LST's and LSM's were 

76 III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 23, 24. 
7 ' Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 5-0-1, 2, 6. 

78 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-I-14, 21: Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 5-0-1, 3. 6, 7. 



LOADING SUPPLIES FOR OKINAWA — not only arms, ammunition, and food but also 
great quantities of construction material {above). Barrels of fuel and boxes of other 
materiel are shown below being loaded at Leyte. 



CHART IV 



XXIV Corps Assignment of Shipping for the Assault on Okinawa 



purple 



/ AM TRAC 



77* 
AM TK 
COL 



A 



COK 
7 14 AM 
TRAC 



CO M 
Tit AW 
TRAC 



PURPLE 



AM TK. 
CD C 



3 = 2 



1,(T WO 



A 



CO H 
IN AM 
TRAC 



( 



cat 

TH AM 
TRAC 




A 



A 




ORANGE 



A A 



156 AM 
TRAC 



A 

776 ' 



con 

«« AM 
TRAC 



COC 
ti* AH 
TRAC 



XI " 

J / Am TR 



ORANGE 



/IS] 

f St T* 



co r 

SWAM 
TRAC 



1 = 3 



1 7 = 3 2 



APAM 



A A? A 



CO K 
)J* AM 

TJtAC 



776 
AM TK. 

COL 
lift AM 
t*A£ 



cox 

l)f AX 
TRAC 



UTH7 



AFAM 



A A 



RCT 
TTS A 
EQUIP 



liT^T 



A 

I BTRlf 

31 
FA HIM 



1ST 61 J 



A 



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AW BN 



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A 



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WAV I 



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/ DUXW 



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1ST 
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■2a *m 

TRAC 
4TH 
WAVE 



1ST 70 



/It 



APA till 



"I AM 

TRAC 
1TM ■ 
6TH 
WAVE 



A 



(NO* 
BNSP 



1ST 7)6 



LSTiTi 



7 £96 



PN 



DIVISIONAL 



SHIPPING 



AAAAAA A AAAAAAAA 

CO B COB COB COB CO I | COB I L40 411 1140 11441 COC CO C COC CO C COC 

Til 711 Til Til 711 7U uv ENGR AMPH ENGR ENGR HI 1 TU 711 711 Til 

TJCBN TV. BN TK BN TK UN TK BN TK BN kr3< GP THK CO OP W TK BW TK BN TK BN TT BN TK BN 



ISK1J6 



JS I PORT 
DET 101 

aaa rn 



ilHO QM 
SVCO 



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AAA" A A A^ 

ENGR DIV T»5 i* 1 



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B- Jl 
FA BN 



APA 3 



DET 
104 
P0»T CO 



aKai 



DET 
100 
PORT CO 



AKA P 



191 
PO*TCO 

OCT 

aaa 



o|». 



CO A 
711 
TK BN 



ism 



DIVISION 

/jgh 



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APA 111 



7 

XX 

til 

1 8 4 



A 



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njjiiti 



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7 

XX 



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AF.4 40 



■7pTTT7 



's [ ■» 

I I 

I iff 



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LJVI 



OPERATION ICEBERG 



43 



beached as near shore as possible and vehicles had to be driven through the 
water; 105-mm. artillery was loaded by means of DUKW's and ponton cause- 
ways. Transports were loaded in the stream by ships' boats, LCT's, and LSM's. 
Many lighters and landing craft on Leyte had been diverted to the needs of 
the Luzon campaign in February when loading began, and a hurry call was 
sent to Tenth Army for additional lighterage. Loading plans also went awry 
because of the lack of accurate advance information on the characteristics of 
ships to be loaded. Much time was consumed by the necessity of unloading 
newly arrived supplies across the open beaches and reloading them in the assault 
shipping. The 27th Division loaded separately at Espiritu Santo, where it met 
difficulties of transportation and misunderstandings with naval officials. 79 

Ill Amphibious Corps and its units mounted out in the Guadalcanal- 
Russells area. Loading was out in the stream but was facilitated by an ample 
supply of lighterage and by excellent sandy beaches. Assault troops were em- 
barked on transports initially and were transferred to landing ships at the 
staging point at Ulithi, a method which shortened the time to be spent in the 
uncomfortable, crowded LST's and LSM's. 80 

Movement to the target got under way on 18 March 1945, when the slow 
tractor group carrying the assault troops which were to take the Kerama Islands 
left San Pedro Bay, Leyte. Transports with other 77th Division troops sailed 
from Leyte three days later, and the remainder of the division followed on 24 
March. The tractor groups of the Southern Attack Force sailed from Leyte on 
25 March, and the faster transports followed two days later. The course from 
Leyte was approximately NE by N to a point about 300 miles south of 
Okinawa, when it was changed to N by NW directly to the target. Units of 
III Amphibious Corps in the Northern Attack Force sailed from the Guadal- 
canal area on 12 March, arriving on 21 March at Ulithi, where four days were 
spent in topping off supplies and effecting the transfer of troops to landing ships. 
The Northern Tractor Flotilla left from Ulithi on 25 March. The tractor groups 
carrying the 2d Marine Division to the demonstration beaches left Saipan the 
same day. When the remainder of the Northern and Southern Attack Forces 
and the Demonstration Group set forth on 27 March, Americans and Japanese 
were already engaged in land fighting in the Kerama Islands. 81 

TO Ibid.; see also sections on loading in the Actn Rpts of XXIV Corps and the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th 
Divisions. 

80 III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 31, 32. 

81 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II-7-13; XXIV Corps Actn Rot. Ch. VI. 



CHAPTER II 

Invasion of the Ryukyus 



Operations preliminary to the landing on Okinawa were as protracted 
and elaborate as the tactical and logistical planning. From October 1944 to 
April 1945 American forces from the Pacific Ocean Areas, the Southwest Pacific 
Area, and the China Theater conducted an intensive campaign to neutralize Jap- 
anese air and naval strength. 1 In the last week of March, while the Kerama 
Islands were being seized, the Navy concentrated on a furious bombardment 
of the main target. Before the troops for the assault mounted out American 
forces had invaded Luzon and Iwo Jima. 

Preliminary Neutralization of Enemy Strength 

The first attack on Okinawa was made by Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's 
Fast Carrier Task Force, operating as part of the Third Fleet, in the preliminary 
operations for the landings on Leyte. Nine carriers, 5 fast battleships, 8 escort 
carriers, 4 heavy cruisers, 7 light cruisers, 3 antiaircraft cruisers, and 58 destroyers 
arrived off Okinawa early on 10 October. Admiral Mitscher made every effort 
to achieve surprise. The force followed the track of bad weather caused by a 
typhoon moving toward Okinawa from the southeast. A smaller force of 
cruisers and destroyers made a diversionary attack on Marcus Island, 1,500 
miles to the east, in such a way as to simulate a large force. Aircraft based on 
the Marianas intensified attacks on Iwo Jima, to hamper searches from that 
direction, and flew interdiction patrols ahead of the Third Fleet forces. 

Wave after wave of carrier planes swept over Okinawa shortly after dawn 
of 10 October. The first strikes bombed, rocketed, and strafed airfields at 
Yontan, Kadena, Ie Shima, and Naha. Later waves made intensive attacks on 
shipping, installations, harbor facilities, and similar targets. The attack con- 



1 The data for this account were taken from monthly reports of operations by Admiral Nimitz 

entitled "Operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas during the Month of ." Copies of the reports 

are available in the Historical Division, WDSS. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



45 



tinued throughout the day. Many enemy aircraft were caught on the ground, 
dispersed and revetted, but only a few in the air. A fighter-bomber from the 
Bunker Hill dropped a bomb between two midget submarines moored side by 
side. Other islands in the Ryukyus were reconnoitered and attacked, including 
Kume, Miyako, Amami-O, Tokuno, and Minami. 

The attack was one of the heaviest delivered by the Fast Carrier Force in 
a single day up to that time. In 1,356 strikes, the planes fired 652 rockets and 
21 torpedoes and dropped 541 tons of bombs. Naha was left in flames; four- 
fifths of the city's 533 acres of closely built-up area was laid waste. Twenty- 
three enemy aircraft were shot down and 88 more destroyed on the ground 
or water. Twenty cargo ships, 45 smaller vessels, 4 midget submarines, a destroyer 
escort, a submarine tender, a mine sweeper, and miscellaneous other craft were 
sunk. "The enemy is brazenly planning to destroy completely every last ship, 
cut our supply lines, and attack us" was the gloomy observation of a Japanese 
soldier on the island on that day. 2 

Admiral Mitscher's estimate of results was probably conservative. A Jap- 
anese Army report on the attack listed in addition a destroyer and a mine 
sweeper as sunk. According to the report, almost 5,000,000 rounds of machine- 
gun ammunition and 300,000 sacks of unpolished rice were among the supplies 
destroyed. The report noted that antiradar "window" had been used by the 
Americans, and that propaganda leaflets had been dropped. Nowhere did the 
Japanese report mention one of the most significant accomplishments of the 
task force during the day — photographic coverage of important areas through- 
out the Ryukyus. 3 

Okinawa was not assaulted again until 1945, when carrier planes raided the 
Ryukyu and Sakashima Islands on 3 and 4 January during a heavy attack on 
Formosa by the Fast Carrier Task Force. The primary objective of the task 
force was the destruction of enemy air strength on Formosa in preparation for 
the invasion of Luzon, and the attack on Okinawa was limited in extent be- 
cause of the long distance the fighters had to fly to the target. On 22 January, 
Admiral Mitscher's carrier force moved a second time against the Ryukyus, with 
the primary mission of photographing the islands. Unfavorable weather inter- 
fered with some of the sorties, but pilots obtained photographic coverage of 80 

2 ONI Weekly, Vol. IV, No. 30, 25 Jul 45, pp. 2276-77, Translated Diary of Miyashita Kuraji. 

3 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 170-45, 7 Jul 45, Transl and Interrog No. 35: Effects of First 
Carrier Plane Attack on Okinawa, Ishi Condition Rpt No. 1, 62/I Div Hq, 17 Oct 44, pp. 89-93. 



4 6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



percent of priority areas and attacked ground installations, aircraft, and ship- 
ping. The operations were small compared to those of 10 October but to the 
enemy they must have seemed impressive. A Japanese superior private in the 
infantry wrote indignantly in his diary on 22 January : 

Grumman, Boeing, and North American Planes came over one after another con- 
tinuously. Darn it, it makes me mad! While some fly around overhead and strafe, the big 
bastards fly over the airfield and drop bombs. The ferocity of the bombing is terrific. It 
really makes me furious. It is past 1500 and the raid is still on. At 1800 the last two planes 
brought the raid to a close. What the hell kind of bastards are they? Bomb from 0600 to 
1800! I have to admit, though, that when they were using tracers this morning, it was 
really pretty. 4 

On 1 March the Fast Carrier Task Force, now operating as Task Force 58, 
a part of Admiral Spruance's Fifth Fleet, delivered another strike on the Ryukyus 
at the end of a 3-week battle cruise in Japanese home waters which included an 
attack on Tokyo. Sweeping down the long Ryukyu chain, American planes 
hit Amami, Minami, Kume, Tokuno, and Okino as well as Okinawa. Cruisers 
and destroyers shelled Okino Daito, 450 miles from Kyushu, in the closest surface 
attack to the Japanese homeland made by the fleet up to that time. The carrier 
planes sank a destroyer, 8 cargo ships, and 45 more craft of various sizes, 
destroyed 41 enemy planes, and attacked airfields and installations, particularly 
in the Okinawa Group. Enemy opposition was meager and American losses 
were small. 

During February and March 1945, aircraft based in the Southwest Pacific 
and in the Marianas made almost daily runs over the Ryukyus and adjacent 
waters. Army and Navy search planes and patrol bombers hunted the waters 
for Japanese shipping and helped to isolate Okinawa by destroying cargo vessels, 
luggers, and other craft plying between Okinawa and outlying areas. One or 
two bombers flying high over Okinawa became so familiar a sight to the Japa- 
nese that they called it the "regular run" and dispensed with air raid alarms. 5 
During March American submarines also tightened the shipping blockade 
around the Ryukyus. 

On 14 March 1945, Task Force 58 steamed out of Ulithi and headed north. 
Its objective was the Inland Sea, bounded by Kyushu, western Honshu, and 
Shikoku ; its mission was to prepare for the invasion of the Ryukyus by attacking 

4 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 147-45, 16 Jun 45, Transl and Interrog No. 32: Translation of 
Diary Captured on Okinawa, p. 71. 

5 Ibid., Extracts from an. Okinawa Diary, p. 49. 




PRELIMINARY BOMBARDMENT of Okjnawa and supporting islands began months 
in advance of the landings. Naha ( above ) was a prize target because of its port installations 
and was leveled long before the invasion. Also important were bridges (below) along the 
island's lines of supply. 





JAPANESE KAMIKAZE ATTACKS were a constant menace to the American fleet. Here 
a Kamikaze plane, jailing short of its target, plunges into the sea after being riddled by 
antiaircraft fire from an American cruiser. But the aircraft carrier Franklin (below} was 
not as fortunate. Hit off Kyushu by two 550-pound armor-piercing bombs, the Franklin's 
fuel, aircraft, and ammunition went up in flame; more than a thousand of her crew were 
lost. Gutted and listing badly, the carrier limped bac\ to New Yor\ for repairs. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



49 



airfields and naval bases in the Japanese homeland. The formidable task force 
was composed of 10 large aircraft carriers, 6 smaller carriers, 8 fast battleships, 
16 cruisers, and dozens of destroyers and other vessels; included were famous 
names like Hornet, Yorktown, Enterprise, New Jersey, and Missouri? 

As Task Force 58 neared Kyushu on 17 March, it was spotted by Japanese 
search planes but was not attacked. At dawn on the 18th the destroyers formed 
two radar patrol groups, one 30 miles north and the other 30 miles west of the 
main force, each with carrier-based fighter protection. At 0545, when Task Force 
58 was about 100 miles east of the southern tip of Kyushu, the first fighters took 
off from their carriers and headed for Kyushu airfields. Within an hour more 
fighters were launched, then the bombers and torpedo bombers. During the 
forenoon American planes attacked aircraft and fields near the coasts of Kyushu. 
When the enemy air opposition proved ineffective, the planes were ordered to 
strike farther inland, at targets originally scheduled for the next day. The move 
was profitable; during the day 102 aircraft were shot down, 275 more on the 
ground damaged or destroyed, and hangars, shops, and other airfield installations 
heavily bombed. 

The Japanese counterattacked during the day. Their attack was not heavy, 
but it was carried out in an aggressive and determined manner. Single enemy 
aircraft using cloud cover effectively launched bombing attacks on American 
carriers. Radars were not of much help, but visual sightings by destroyers were 
invaluable. Although patrol planes shot down twelve of the enemy, and anti- 
aircraft fire accounted for twenty-one more, the Yorhtown and Enterprise were 
hit by bombs. Fortunately, damage to the former was minor, and the bomb that 
hit the Enterprise failed to explode. Both could continue flight operations. 

The next day, 19 March, Admiral Mitscher concentrated the attack on the 
enemy warships at Kobe, Kure, and Hiroshima in western Honshu, as well as 
on the airfields in Honshu and Shikoku. Major Japanese fleet units, including 
the battleship Yamato, were at Kure and Hiroshima harbors. The attack against 
the enemy fleet was only moderately effective, mainly because of extremely 
heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. One group alone lost thirteen planes over 
Kure. The Yamato was slightly damaged, an escort carrier severely damaged, 
and fourteen other warships damaged in varying degrees. Merchant ships and 
coastal vessels were sunk or damaged in the Inland Sea. 7 

6 CTF 58 Actn Rpt, pp. 2-3, Incl A, p. 1. 
''ibid., pp. 4-5. 



50 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Soon after the first planes were launched on 19 March, enemy aircraft 
appeared over Task Force 58, concentrating their attack as usual on the carriers. 
Two 550-lb. bombs hit the Franhlin while she was in the course of launching 
a strike. She burned fiercely amid shattering explosions and enveloping clouds 
of black smoke, finally becoming dead in the water. A bomb hit the Wasp and 
exploded between her second and third decks, but the fire was quickly put out 
and the carrier was able to work her aircraft within an hour. The weather was 
perfect for the enemy: a thin layer of clouds at 2,500 feet. Antiaircraft gunnery 
was, however, excellent. Six Japanese planes attacked one group, coming in at 
cloud level at an angle of 45 degrees ; all six were blown to pieces. 

Task Force 58 retired during the afternoon of 19 March. Carriers covered 
the burning Franklin, which was being towed at five knots, and launched 
fighter sweeps against Kyushu airfields in order to disrupt any planned attack 
on the force as it withdrew slowly south. Eight enemy planes attacked in the 
evening but were intercepted 80 miles away; five were shot down. The total 
number of Japanese planes shot out of the air during the day by planes and anti- 
aircraft fire was 97, and approximately 225 additional enemy aircraft were de- 
stroyed or damaged on the ground. Installations at more than a score of air 
bases on Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu were left in ruins by the operations 
of the day. 

Japanese "bogeys" shadowed Task Force 58 on 20 March, and enemy planes 
attacked during the afternoon and evening. The Enterprise was hit by American 
gunfire which started a fire. Eight planes were destroyed and flying operations 
were halted. A plane narrowly missed the Hancoc\ and hit and crippled a 
destroyer. The Japanese delivered an 8-plane torpedo strike against the force 
during the night, without success. On the 21st the enemy launched a final heavy 
attack on the retiring ships, with a force of 32 bombers and 16 fighters. Twenty- 
four American fighters intercepted the enemy planes about sixty miles from 
the force and quickly shot down every enemy plane, with the loss of only two 
American fighters. Task Force 58 met its supply ships south of Okinawa on 22 
March, and spent a busy day fueling, provisioning, and taking on replacement 
pilots and aircraft, in preparation for the decisive phase of the campaign soon to 
come. In the entire course of its foray from 18 to 22 March, Admiral Mitscher's 
force had destroyed 528 enemy planes, damaged 16 surface craft, and hit scores 
of hangars, factories, warehouses, and dock areas. The success of the operation 
was indicated by the subsequent failure of the Japanese to mount a strong air 
attack for a week after the American landing on Okinawa. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



5 1 



Seizure of the Kerama Islands 

The first landings in the Ryukyus were on the Kerama Islands, fifteen 
miles west of Okinawa. The boldly conceived plan to invade these islands 
six days prior to the landing on Okinawa was designed to secure a seaplane 
base and a fleet anchorage supporting the main invasion. An additional pur- 
pose was to provide artillery support for the Okinawa landing by the seizure 
of Keise Shima, eleven miles southwest of the Hagushi beaches, on the day 
preceding the Okinawa assault. The entire operation was under the control 
of the Western Islands Attack Group. The force selected for the landings 
in the Keramas was the 77th Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Andrew 
D. Bruce; the 420th Field Artillery Group was chosen for the landing on 
Keise Shima. 8 

Steaming from Leyte, where the 77th Division had been engaged in 
combat since November 1944, the task force moved toward the objective in 
two convoys. The 22 LST's, 14 LSM's, and 40 LCI's, organized into a tractor 
flotilla with its own screen, left on 20 March. Two days later twenty trans- 
ports and large cargo vessels followed, screened by two carrier escorts and 
destroyers. En route, the training begun on Leyte was continued. Opera- 
tional plans were discussed and the men were thoroughly briefed with the 
aid of maps, aerial photographs, and terrain models. Booklets on habits, cus- 
toms, government, and history of the Okinawans were distributed. After an 
uneventful voyage, broken only by false submarine alarms, the entire task 
force arrived on 26 March in the vicinity of the Kerama Islands. 

Naval and air operations against the Keramas had begun two days earlier. 
Under the protection of the carriers and battleships of Task Force 58, which 
was standing off east of Okinawa, mine sweepers began clearing large areas 
south of the objective area on 24 March. On 25 March Vice Admiral William 
H. Blandy's Amphibious Support Force arrived, and mine sweeping was 
intensified. By evening of 25 March a 7-mile-wide lane had been cleared to 
Kerama from the south and a slightly larger one from the southwest. Few 
mines were found. Underwater demolition teams came in on the 25th and 
found the approaches to the Kerama beaches clear of man-made obstacles, 
though the reefs were studded with sharp coral heads, many of which lay 
only a few feet beneath the surface at high tide and were flush with the 
surface at low tide. 9 



CTF 51. 1 R,pt, I-1-19, III-5-17. 



9 CTF 52 Actn Rpt Okinawa, II-C-i, 4; V-H-i; V-G-i. 



52 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



While the demolition teams surveyed the approaches, observers from 77th 
Division assault units studied their objectives. A fringing reef of irregular width 
surrounds each island. The coasts of the islands are generally steep and irreg- 
ular. Narrow benches of coral rock lie along the coasts in many places. The 
beaches are narrow and are usually bulwarked by 4-foot sea walls. The only 
beaches of any considerable length are at the mouths of steep valleys or within 
small bays. All but the smallest of the islands are for the most part masses of 
steep rocky slopes, covered with brush and trees and from about 400 to 800 
feet in height. Wherever possible the inhabitants grew sweet potatoes and 
rice on the terraced slopes of the hills and in small valley flats near the beaches. 
There are no roads and only a few pack-animal trails. No island in the group 
is suitable for an airstrip; none can accommodate large masses of troops or 
extensive base facilities. The military value of the Keramas lies in two anchor- 
ages, Kerama Kaikyo and Aka Kaikyo, separated from each other by Amuro 
Islet, in the center of the group, and bounded on the east by Tokashiki and 
on the west by Aka, Geruma, and Hokaji. These anchorages inclosed 44 berths, 
from 500 to 1,000 yards long, ranging in depth from 13 to 37 fathoms. 10 (See 
Map No. IV.TI 

Four battalion landing teams (BLT's) of the 77th Division made the first 
landings in the Kerama Islands on the morning of 26 March. The sky was clear, 
visibility good, and the water calm. Escorted by Navy guide boats, waves of 
amphibian tractors moved from LST's to four central islands of the group — 
Aka, Geruma, Hokaji, and Zamami. Cruisers, destroyers, and smaller naval 
craft swept the beaches with 5-inch shells, rockets, and mortar shells. Carrier 
planes strafed suspected areas and guarded against interference by enemy sub- 
marines and aircraft. Amphibian tanks led the amtracks to the beaches. 11 

The first unit ashore was the 3d BLT of the 305th Regimental Combat 
Team (RCT). At 0804 12 the 3d BLT hit the southern beaches of Aka, an island 
of irregular shape, measuring 3,400 by 3,000 yards at its extreme dimensions 
and rising in a series of ridges to two peaks, one 539 feet and the other 635 
feet high. Aka, "Happy Corner Island," lies near the center of the group. The 
200 boat operators and Korean laborers on Aka put sporadic mortar and 
machine-gun fire on the Americans, without inflicting damage, and then re- 

10 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Info Bull No. 161-44, 15 Nov 44; Okinawa Gunto, pp. 56-58; Supplement, 
17 Dec 44: Okinawa Gunto, pp. 35-46. 

11 CTF 52 Actn Rpt Okinawa, II— C— 3 ; 77th Div Opn Rpt, pp. 25-26. 

12 77th Div G-3 Jnl and Msg File, 26 Mar 45. This time is erroneously reported as 0904 in the Opn Rpt. 




TERRAIN IN THE KERAMA RETTO was rugged. In particular the coastal terrain 
was precipitous, appearing formidable to the 2d BUT , 306th Infantry, yyth Division, as it 
approached Ho\aji Island on 26 March. Below is an aerial view of To\ashi\i Island. 




54 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



treated into the steep central area as the invaders rapidly overran the beaches 
and the town of Aka. 

The next island invaded — and the first to be secured — was Geruma, a 
circular island five-eighths of a mile in diameter, lying south of Aka. The ist 
Battalion Landing Team of the 306th Regimental Combat Team landed on the 
narrow beach at 0825, meeting no opposition except for long-range sniper fire. 
Within three hours it wiped out a score of defenders and secured the island. 
Before the engagement was over, DUKW's began unloading 105-mm. howitzers 
of the 304th and 305th Field Artillery Battalions for use in operations scheduled 
for the next day. 

The easiest conquest of the day was that of Hokaji, an island one mile 
by 800 yards, lying a few hundred yards south of Geruma and linked to it by 
an encircling reef that follows the contours of the two land masses. The 2d BLT 
of the 306th landed on Hokaji at 0921 and secured it without resistance. 

At 0900 on 26 March the ist BLT of the 305th invaded Zamami, initially 
meeting little resistance. A two-legged, humpbacked island, approximately 5,500 
yards long east-west and 400 yards at its narrowest point, Zamami is formed, 
except for a few low flat areas along the southern coast, by a group of wooded hills 
which rise about 450 feet. Amtracks carried the troops ashore in a deep bay that 
cuts into the southern coast. A sea wall fifteen feet from the water's edge held up 
the amtracks and forced the men to continue by foot. The assault elements 
received sporadic mortar and sniper fire until they reached the town of Zamami, 
just to the rear of the beach. Then a group of Japanese estimated to be of com- 
pany strength, together with about 300 Korean laborers, fled north from the town 
to the hills. 

It became apparent to General Bruce by late morning of 26 March that the 
rapid progress of the landing teams would permit the seizure on the first day of 
an additional island. Accordingly the 2d BLT of the 307th, a reserve unit, was 
directed to seize Yakabi, northwesternmost islet of the Keramas, which was 
nearly oval in shape and a little more than a mile long. At 134 1 the battalion 
landed on Yakabi and, meeting only slight opposition, quickly overran it. 13 

On both Aka and Zamami the invading forces met stiffer resistance as 
they pressed up the steep slopes into the interior of the islands. On Aka a 
group of Japanese of platoon strength was routed by naval gunfire. During 
the afternoon the troops killed fifty-eight Japanese in a series of brief skirmishes 

13 77th Div Opn Rpt, p. 25. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



55 



on the eastern heights of the island. Though the enemy fought from caves 
and pillboxes with small arms, he had no effective defense. By 1700 of 26 
March two-thirds of Aka was secured; 300 Japanese troops and 400 civilians 
were still at large on the island. 

On Zamami advance elements of the 1st BLT of the 305th pushed up 
into the high ground during the afternoon without closing with the enemy. 
From midnight until dawn of the next day, however, groups of Japanese 
armed with rifles, pistols, and sabers tried to break into the American peri- 
meters near the beach. Company C bore the brunt of the attack, repulsing 
nine local thrusts supported by automatic weapons and mortars. One Amer- 
ican machine gun changed hands several times. In a series of night fire fights 
that at times developed into savage hand-to-hand combat, the 1st Battalion 
killed more than 100 of the enemy at a cost of 7 Americans killed and 12 
wounded. 14 

On 27 March the Americans took without opposition Amuro, an islet 
between the two anchorages and Kuba, the southwesternmost of the Keramas. 
Fitful action was still in process on Aka and Zamami on the morning of 27 
March. On Aka the 3d BLT of the 305th isolated seventy-five Japanese who 
were dug in on a ridge and its reverse slope and were fully supported by 
mortars and automatic weapons. After a period of aerial strafing, bombing, 
rocketing, and mortar fire, the Americans drove the enemy from their posi- 
tion into the brush. On Zamami patrols of company size reconnoitered the 
island and eliminated scattered groups of the enemy. One organized position 
was located but could not be assaulted until the following day, when amtracks 
blasted frontally the caves where the last Japanese to be found were dug in. 

After a preparation by artillery firing from Geruma, the 1st BLT of 
the 306th landed on the west coast of Tokashiki at 091 1 of 27 March, and a 
few minutes later the 2d BLT landed to the south of the 1st. Tokashiki was 
the largest island in the group, six miles long from north to south and aver- 
aging about one mile in width. Closest of the islands to Okinawa, it formed 
the eastern barrier of the Kerama anchorages. Its coasts rise for the most part 
as cliffs or steep slopes cut by narrow ravines, the hill masses reaching heights 
of more than 650 feet in the center of the island and at the northern and 

14 Terrain descriptions are from 77th Div G-2 Estimate of the Situation ICEBERG, 15 Mar 45; Capt 
Paul R. Leach (77th Div Historian), Opns of 77th Div in Kerama Retto; Narrative of Actn from 77th 
Div Opn Rpt Kerama Retto; G-2 and G-3 Periodic Rpts, 27-31 Mar 45; and G-2 and G-3 jnls and 
msg files for the same period. 



56 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



southern ends. At the backs of two sheltered bays near the center of the west 
coast there are two settlements, Tokashiki and Aware; the sandy beaches 
near these bays were selected by the invaders for the landings. 

Operations on Tokashiki followed the pattern of those on the other major 
islands of the Keramas. Resistance at first was negligible, the Americans being 
hindered more by the rugged terrain than by the scattered sniper fire. The 
two battalions abreast drove north over narrow trails. The 3d BLT of the 306th, 
initially in reserve, was landed with the mission of clearing the southern por- 
tion of the island. By nightfall the 1st and 2d Battalions were set for the next 
day's attack on the town of Tokashiki on the east coast; 3d Battalion patrols 
had reached the southern tip of the island. 

On the following day, 28 March, the two battalions of the 306th renewed 
their drive to the north. After a 500-round artillery preparation the troops 
occupied Tokashiki, which had previously been leveled by air and surface 
bombardment. The area near the bay was overrun without opposition. The 
advance continued to the north, meeting only scattered resistance. On 29 
March, after the three battalions had sent patrols throughout the island, 
Tokashiki was declared secured. 

By the evening of 29 March all islands in the Kerama Retto were in American 
hands. In all, combat elements of the 77th had made fifteen separate landings, 
involving five ship-to-shore movements by LVT's, two ship-to-shore movements 
by DUKW's, three ship-to-shore movements by LCVP's with subsequent transfer 
to LVT's, and five shore-to-shore movements by LVT's. Despite the complexity 
of the maneuvers, the veterans of Guam and Leyte operated with little confusion. 
Casualties were low. From 26 to 31 March the 77th killed 530 of the enemy and 
took 121 prisoners, at a cost of 31 Americans killed and 81 wounded. 10 

The operations on Aka and Tokashiki had interesting consequences. Al- 
though 77th Division patrols scoured the islands, hundreds of Japanese soldiers 
and civilians managed to evade discovery in caves, ravines, and brush through- 
out the hilly central parts of the islands. After the Okinawa operation, representa- 
tives from Tenth Army tried unsuccessfully to induce the Japanese commander 
on Aka to surrender. The Japanese soldiers and sailors were not as stubborn, and 
most of them escaped from the island and surrendered. On Tokashiki teams of 
Nisei and Japanese officer prisoners negotiated with the Japanese commander, 
who refused to surrender his garrison of 300 officers and men. He offered, how- 

15 77th Div Opn Rpt, pp. 26, 30-32, 41. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



57 



ever, to allow Americans to swim on Tokashiki beaches provided they kept away 
from the Japanese camp in the hills. Only after many months, when he was 
given a copy of the Imperial rescript announcing the end of hostilities, did the 
Japanese commander surrender, claiming that he could have held out for ten 
more years. 16 

The capture of the Kerama Islands was followed by the landings on Keise 
Shima. Lying about eleven miles southwest of the Hagushi beaches and about 
eight miles west of Naha, the group of four tiny coral islets that make up Keise 
had an importance in the attack on Okinawa far out of proportion to its size and 
topography. From Keise 155-mm. guns could command most of southern Oki- 
nawa. Employing tactics used with great success on Kwajalein, Tenth Army 
ordered XXIV Corps artillery to emplace two battalions of 155-mm. guns on 
Keise to support the attack. 

On 26 March the Fleet Marine Force Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, 
attached to the 77th Division, scouted Keise without encountering enemy troops 
or civilians. On the morning of 31 March a convoy of LST's and LSM's bearing 
the 420th Field Artillery Group and attachments arrived off the islets. Over 
floating caisson docks set up by Seabees the heavy guns and other equipment 
were unloaded. Twenty-four 155-mm. guns were emplaced on the low, sandy 
islets, and a cub strip and a bivouac area were established. By dawn of L Day the 
batteries were ready to execute their mission of firing counterbattery, interdiction, 
and harassing fires deep into enemy territory. 

The guns were set up in full view of the Japanese occupying high ground 
on Okinawa. General Ushijima ordered a "surprise shelling" of Keise to begin 
at midnight of 31 March, after which army and navy commands were to dispatch 
"raiding infiltration units" to Keise, "thereby wiping out the enemy advanced 
strong point in one blow." 17 For an hour after midnight, Japanese 150-mm. shells 
exploded on the islets. There were no casualties or damage. The infiltration 
party never appeared. This attempt to destroy the artillery on Keise was only 
the first of several, the enemy being keenly aware of the threat offered by the 
artillery in this flanking position. 18 

The assault on Kerama and Keise had come as a surprise to the Japanese 
commanders on Okinawa Gunto. The enemy commanders on Okinawa had 

10 77th Div Opn Rpt, pp. 33, 35; 870th AAA AW Bn Actn Rpt Kerama Retto, p. 5. 

17 Tenth Army TransI No. 248, 8 Jul 45 : j2d Army Ord, 3 1 Mar 45. 

18 420th FA Gp Actn Rpt, 31 Mar to 30 Jun 45, pp. 4-6; 531st FA Bn Actn Rpt, pp. 1-2; 532c! FA 
Bn Actn Rpt, p. 1. 



58 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



expected that the Americans would land first on the Hagushi beaches and that 
their ships would deploy just east of the Kerama Islands. 19 

Since the enemy considered the Keramas as bases for special attack units 
rather than as defensive positions, there were few prepared defenses on the 
beaches or inland when the Americans appeared. At one time 2,335 Japanese 
troops occupied the islands, engaged in installing and operating facilities for 
the Sea Raiding units. When, in late 1944 and early 1945, the need for combat 
troops on Okinawa became acute, most of these troops were moved to the larger 
island. There remained on the Kerama group only about 300 boat operators 
of the Sea Raiding Squadrons, approximately 600 Korean laborers, and about 
100 base troops. The garrison was well supplied not only with the suicide boats 
and depth charges but also with machine guns, mortars, light arms, and 
ammunition. 20 

In Kerama Retto, "Island Chain between Happiness and Good," the Japa- 
nese tradition of self-destruction emerged horribly in the last acts of soldiers 
and civilians trapped in the hills. Camping for the night of 28 March a mile 
from the north tip of Tokashiki, troops of the 306th heard explosions and screams 
of pain in the distance. In the morning they found a small valley littered with 
more than 150 dead and dying Japanese, most of them civilians. Fathers had 
systematically throttled each member of their families and then disemboweled 
themselves with knives or hand grenades. Under one blanket lay a father, 
two small children, a grandfather, and a grandmother, all strangled by cloth 
ropes. Soldiers and medics did what they could. The natives, who had been told 
that the invading "barbarians" would kill and rape, watched with amazement 
as the Americans provided food and medical care; an old man who had killed 
his daughter wept in bitter remorse. 21 

Only a minority of the Japanese, however, were suicides. Most civilians 
straggled into American positions, worn and dirty. In all, the 77th took 1,195 
civilian and 121 military prisoners. One group of 26 Koreans gave up on Zamami 
under a white flag. On Aka one Japanese lieutenant surrendered voluntarily be- 
cause, he said, it would be "meaningless" for him to commit suicide. 22 A Japanese 

19 Interrog Yahara; 77th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 4, 30 Mar 45; XXIV Corps PW Interrog No. 71, 
20 Apr 45. 

20 77th Div Opn Rpt Kerama Retto, pp. 38-39; G-2 Periodic Rpt, 26-31 Mar 45. 

21 Personal Obsn of Capt Leach, 77th Div Historian, and Cpl Alexander Roberts, 1st I & H Service. 

22 XXIV Corps PW Interrog No. 71, 20 Apr 45; 77th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 3, 29 Mar 45: Order 
of Battle Rpt. 



LANDINGS IN THE KERAMAS, made by the yyth Division, met little opposition. 
Zamami Island (above) was taken by the ist BLT, 3o$th Infantry, some soldiers of which 
are shown just before they started inland. Amtrac^s were unable to negotiate the seawall 
and were left at the beach. Below is a scene on a beach at T okashikj , captured by the ist 
BLT , 306th, on 2j March. Soldier {right) seems puzzled by the absence of opposition. 



6o 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



major captured by a patrol on Zamami late in May assisted in efforts to induce 
Japanese remaining in the islands to surrender. 

More than 350 suicide boats were captured and destroyed by the 77th in the 
Kerama Islands. They were well dispersed throughout the islands, many of them 
in camouflaged hideouts. These plywood boats were 18 feet long and 5 feet wide. 
Powered by 6-cylinder Chevrolet automobile engines of about 85 horsepower, 
they were capable of making up to 20 knots. Two depth charges weighing 264 
pounds each were carried on a rack behind the pilot and were rolled off the 
stern of the boat when released. According to captured instructions, three boats 
would attack a ship simultaneously, each seeking a vital spot to release its charge. 
Strictly speaking, manning the boats was not suicidal in the same sense as pilot- 
ing the Kamikaze planes or the "Baka" bombs. Delay time for the depth-charge 
igniters was five seconds. According to a Japanese officer, it was considered pos- 
sible to drop the depth charges against a ship and escape, but the fragility of 
the boats made survival highly unlikely. As a result, the pilots were promoted 
two grades upon assignment and received preferential treatment. After com- 
pletion of their missions they were to receive promotion to second lieutenant; 
obviously, most such promotions would be posthumous. 

From hideouts in the small islands, the "Q-boats" with their charges were 
to speed to the American anchorages. "The objective of the attack," General 
Ushijima ordered, "will be transports, loaded with essential supplies and material 
and personnel. . . . The attack will be carried out by concentrating maximum 
strength immediately upon the enemy's landing." 23 The Japanese had carefully 
mapped out possible assembly areas of American transports and had prepared 
appropriate routes of approach to each area, especially those around Keise. 24 
The initial thrust into the Keramas completely frustrated the enemy's plan. 
In the opinion of General Bruce, the destruction of the suicide boat base alone 
was well worth the cost of reducing the Kerama Islands. 20 

In a campaign that found the Japanese prepared for the major moves of 
the invading forces, the initial seizure of their "Western Islands" not only caught 
them off guard but frustrated their plan of "blasting to pieces" the American 
transports with a "whirlwind" attack by suicide boats. 20 The Americans gained 

23 Tenth Army Transl No. 231, 6 Jul 45 : j2d Army Opn Ord No. 115,23 Mar 45. 

24 Tenth Army Transl No. 210, 11 Jul 45: 20th Sea Raiding Bn Opn Ord No. 26, 16 Feb 45. 
2 ° 77th Div Opn Rpt, p. 40. 

26 77th Div Opn Rpt Kerama Retto [n. d.], p. 38; Interrog Yahara; Tenth Army G-2 CICA Trans] 
No. 231, 6 Jul 45: 3 2d Army Opn Ord No. 115. 




"SUICIDE BOATS" wrecked by their crews were found by the yjth Division as it mopped 
up in the Keramas. They looked like small speedboats but were poorly constructed and 
quite slow. These two craft (below) were captured in their cave shelters by American troops 
on Okinawa. Note booby trap warnings and crude depth charge rac\s at stern. 





SOFTENING UP THE TARGET was the tas\ of the Allied fleet. It stood off Okinawa 
to place accurate fire on \nown Japanese installations and to support underwater demolitions 
teams clearing the beaches. At the same time the fleet ' s air arm conducted aerial bombard- 
ment. This low-level bombing attac\ on L minus I {below) hit enemy shipping in the 
mouth of the Bishi River. 





INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



63 



even more than the Japanese lost. In American hands, this sheltered anchorage 
became a miniature naval base from which seaplanes operated and surface ships 
were refueled, remunitioned, and repaired. 

Softening Up the Target 

While operations were proceeding in the Kerama Islands, Task Force 
52, under the command of Admiral Blandy, supervised the specialized tasks 
that were an essential prelude to the invasion of Okinawa itself — the mine 
sweeping, underwater demolition work, and heavy, sustained bombardment 
of the target by ships and aircraft. Task Force 58 stood off to the north and 
east of Okinawa, ready to intercept any Japanese surface force approaching 
from the east, while Task Force 52 guarded against enemy attack from the 
west and against any "express runs" from the north either to reinforce or to 
evacuate Okinawa. During the day the ships bombarding Okinawa stayed 
close enough together to be able to concentrate for surface action without 
undue delay. At night 80 percent of Task Force 52 deployed to the northwest 
of Okinawa and 20 percent to the northeast. The northwest group was con- 
sidered strong enough to cope with any surface force which the Japanese 
could bring against it; the northeast element was to deal with "express runs," 
and could count on the support of Task Force 58 if the enemy dispatched a 
larger, slower, and more easily detected force to the area east of Okinawa. 
In case of emergency, one force could join the other by passing through the 
unswept waters north of Okinawa. 27 

Bombardment of Okinawa began on 25 March when ships of the Amphib- 
ious Support Force shelled the southeast coast. The fire was executed only at 
long range, however, for mine-sweeping operations which had commenced 
the previous day were still proceeding well offshore. During the following 
days, as the mine sweepers cleared areas progressively nearer the coast of 
Okinawa, the bombardment ships were able to close in for heavier and more 
accurate fire. The Japanese had planted a mine field of considerable strength 
along the approaches to the Hagushi beaches, and until mine-sweeping opera- 
tions were completed the American ships could not bring the beaches within 
range. Not until the evening of 29 March were the approaches to Hagushi 
and other extensive areas cleared in what Admiral Blandy called "probably 
the largest assault sweep operation ever executed." Operating under inter- 

27 CTF 52 Actn Rpt Okinawa, I-C-i, 2. 



6 4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



mittent air attack, American mine sweepers cleared about 3,000 square miles 
in 75 sweeps. 

From 26 to 28 March the naval bombardment of Okinawa was at long 
range; targets were located with difficulty because of the range and occasional 
poor visibility, and few were reported destroyed. Effective bombardment of 
the island did not begin until 29 March when battleships, cruisers, destroyers, 
and gunboats closed the range and hit their objectives with increasing effec- 
tiveness. Then for the first time the large concentration of targets in the Naha- 
Oroku Peninsula area was taken under effective fire. On the 30th heavy shells 
breached the sea walls along the coast line in many places. Ten battleships and 
eleven cruisers were now participating in the attack. On 31 March four heavy 
ships, accompanied by destroyers and gunboats, supported the final underwater 
demolition operation off the Hagushi beaches. This was completed before noon. 
Then the ships concentrated on sea walls and on defensive installations behind 
the beaches. Even at the shortest range, however, it was difficult to locate impor- 
tant targets, and ships had to explore with gunfire for emplacements and 
similar structures. 

During the seven days before L Day, naval guns fired more than 13,000 
large-caliber shells (6-inch to 16-inch) in shore bombardment. Including sev- 
eral thousand 5-inch shells, a total of 5,162 tons of ammunition was expended 
on ground targets. All known coast defense guns in the area were destroyed 
or severely damaged. The enemy had established a few heavy pillbox-type 
installations and numerous emplacements along the beaches and farther inland, 
but most of them were empty. Naval guns fired extensively into cliffs and 
rocky points overlooking and flanking the beaches to disclose defensive posi- 
tions such as the enemy had frequently used in the past; few, however, were 
found. 28 By the afternoon of 31 March, Admiral Blandy could report that 
"the preparation was sufficient" with the exception of certain potentially dan- 
gerous installations still in the Naha area. Enemy shore batteries did not open 
up on ships during the preliminary bombardment. 29 

Aircraft from Task Force 58 and from the escort carriers flew 3,095 sorties 
in the Okinawa area prior to L Day. Their primary objective was enemy air- 
craft based on the islands. Second priority was given to small boats and 
"amphibian tanks," which later were discovered to be suicide attack boats 



23 Ibid., V-C 1, 7. 

20 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 35-36. See below under "The Japanese Plan of 
Defense," p. 93. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



65 



fitted with depth charges. After these, they gave preference to installations 
such as coastal defense guns, field artillery, antiaircraft guns, floating mines, 
communications facilities, and barracks areas. 

Planes from Task Force 58 concentrated on targets that could not be reached 
by naval gunfire. Escort carrier aircraft protected the mine sweepers and under- 
water demolition teams, conducted preliminary attacks against Kerama and 
Keise, and supported the assault generally. The preliminary air assault got under 
way on 25 March with bombing, napalm, and rocket attacks on Tokashiki Island 
in thz Keramas and attacks on air installations on Okinawa. On the 26th, 424 
sorties were made against suicide boat and midget submarine bases, airfields, 
and gun positions. On the following day attacks continued on these targets, and 
barracks areas were also worked over with bombs, napalm, and rockets. 

From 28 to 31 March air missions were closely coordinated with projected 
ground operations as the escort carriers executed missions requested by Tenth 
Army. Aircraft concentrated on gun positions at scattered points throughout 
southern Okinawa. They bombed a bridge along the northern shore of Nakagu- 
suku Bay and broke it in ten places. They scored fifteen direct hits with napalm 
on installations near the Bishi River. Operations against enemy air and naval 
bases continued. On 29 March carrier planes destroyed 27 enemy planes on 
Okinawa airfields and probably destroyed or damaged 24 more; planes hit on 
the ground during the period totaled 80. Barges, wooden boats, and other 
small enemy craft were systematically gutted. At least eight submarine pens were 
demolished at Unten Ko on the north coast of Motobu Peninsula. 30 

Under cover of carrier planes and naval gunfire, underwater demolition 
teams performed reconnaissance and necessary demolitions on Keise, on the 
demonstration beaches of southeastern Okinawa, and on the Hagushi landing 
beaches. Planes made strafing, bombing, and rocket runs on the beaches, and 
smoker planes, where needed, concealed the teams with smoke. Three lines of 
ships, increasing in fire power from the beach out, gave the underwater demoli- 
tion teams formidable support. LCI(G)'s (Landing Craft, Infantry, Fire Sup- 
port) armed with 40-mm. guns stood approximately 1,200 yards off the beach; 
then a line of destroyers at about 2,700 yards covered the shore to 300 yards inland 
with 40-mm. and 5-inch gunfire; and 1,000 yards behind the destroyers were 
battleships and cruisers ready with secondary and antiaircraft batteries to neu- 
tralize all ground from 300 to i,coo yards inland. 

30 CTF 52 Actn Rpt, pp. V-E-1-7; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 37-38. 



66 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Underwater demolition teams first reconnoitered the Hagushi beaches on 
29 March, after a delay of a day because of the large number of mines found 
in the areas off the beaches. Three battleships, 3 cruisers, 6 destroyers, and 9 
LCI(G)'s supported the operation. The machine-gun and mortar fire encoun- 
tered was silenced by the fire support units. The swimmers found approximately 
2,900 wooden posts, from 6 to 8 inches in diameter and from 4 to 8 feet high, 
most of them off beaches north of the Bishi River. In some places there were 
four rows of these posts. On 30 and 31 March underwater demolition teams 
destroyed all but 200 of the posts, using tetratol tied in with primacord. A 
demolition operation was carried out on the demonstration beaches under gun- 
fire coverage; several tons of tetratol were detonated on the edge of the reef 
even though no obstacles had been found. 31 

As the Americans closed in on Okinawa from 26 to 31 March, the enemy 
suddenly found itself confronting another adversary — the Royal Navy. A 
British carrier force, under the command of Vice Admiral H. B. Rawlings and 
assigned to the Fifth Fleet, struck at the Sakishima Islands on 26, 27, and 31 
March. Its planes made 345 sorties over Sakishima, dropped more than 81 
tons of bombs, and fired more than 200 rockets. The British labored under 
several handicaps. They lacked night fighters, and their ships carried a much 
smaller number of planes than did the large American carriers. Also, their 
supply resources afloat were rudimentary. Nevertheless, the British rendered 
valuable assistance to the assault forces by considerably reducing the magni- 
tude and number of enemy air attacks staged from Sakishima airfields. 32 

Task Force 58 remained in a constant state of readiness, and on 28 March 
it demonstrated its fast striking power in convincing fashion. Word was 
received from Admiral Spruance of a reported sortie of enemy fleet units from 
the Inland Sea on a southwesterly course. Immediately a task group headed 
north at high speed to attack the enemy ships. The Japanese force, however, 
was not found. On the 29th another task group joined in the search, but 
without success. The foray was not allowed, however, to be useless. On their 
way back to the carriers, planes from both groups bombed airfields in the 
Kagoshima Bay area of Kyushu and attacked miscellaneous shipping with 
good results. 33 

31 CTF 52 Actn Rpt, V-G-i, 2, 3; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 32-33. 

32 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 67-68. 
83 Ibid., p. 61. 



INVASION OF THE RYUKYUS 



6 7 



Despite American attacks on enemy airfields and installations, approxi- 
mately 100 Japanese planes made 50 raids in the Okinawa area during the 
period from 26 to 31 March. Many of the attacking planes tried to suicide- 
crash the American ships — an omen of the basic Japanese tactics in the tre- 
mendous sea-air war soon to come. With few exceptions, the attacks came 
during early morning or by moonlight. Already the Japanese were using a 
considerable assortment of new- and old-type planes. As they approached, the 
enemy raiders generally split up into single planes or 2-plane groups, which 
made individual, uncoordinated attacks. There was some evidence that planes 
flew in from outlying bases and landed on fields in Okinawa at night. Favorite 
targets of the Japanese were pickets and patrols, including small craft, but 
several planes attacked formations of heavy ships. Of the enemy planes that 
suicide-crashed, nine hit their targets and ten made near misses. Much of 
the damage from these attacks was superficial, but several ships suffered serious 
damage and casualties. Ten American ships, including the battleship Nevada 
and the cruisers Biloxi and Indianapolis , were damaged in the period from 
26 to 31 March, eight of them by suicide planes; two other vessels were 
destroyed by mines. The defending ships and planes shot down approximately 
forty-two of the attackers. 34 In addition to the suicide attacks the Japanese con- 
ducted a few bombing, strafing, and torpedo attacks during the period, but 
these were without significant results. 

On the afternoon of 31 March naval auxiliary vessels delivered the latest 
aerial photographs of the beaches to the transports approaching the target 
area. As night fell, the vast armada of transports, cargo ships, landing craft, 
and war ships ploughed the last miles of their long voyage. Before dawn they 
would rendezvous off the Hagushi beaches in the East China Sea. Weather 
for 1 April promised to be excellent. 

84 Com Amphib-Gp i, CTF 52 Actn Rpt, IV-B-10. 



CHAPTER III 



Winning the Okinawa Beachhead 

Dawn of Easter Sunday, i April 1945, disclosed an American fleet of 1,300 
ships in the waters adjacent to Okinawa, poised for invasion. Most of them 
stood to the west in the East China Sea. The day was bright and cool — a little 
under 75 °; a moderate east-northeast breeze rippled the calm sea; there was 
no surf on the Hagushi beaches. Visibility was 10 miles until 0600, when it 
lowered to from 5 to 7 miles in the smoke and haze. More favorable conditions 
for the assault could hardly be imagined. 

The Japanese doubtless marveled at the immensity of the assemblage of 
ships, but they could not have been surprised at the invasion itself. The Kerama 
Islands had been seized; Okinawa had been heavily bombarded for days; and 
underwater demolition teams had reconnoitered both the Hagushi beaches and 
the beaches above Minatoga on the southeast coast, indicating that landings 
were to be expected at either place or both. Moreover, Japanese air and submarine 
reconnaissance had also spotted the convoys en route. 1 

The Japanese had been powerless to interfere with the approach to the 
Ryukyus. Bad weather, however, had caused not only seasickness among the 
troops but also concern over the possibility that a storm might delay the land- 
ings. It was necessary for some convoys to alter their courses to avoid a threaten- 
ing typhoon. The rough seas caused delays and minor damage and resulted in 
other deflections from planned courses. Thus on the evening before L Day 
various task forces converging on Okinawa were uncertain of their own positions 
and those of other forces. All arrived on time, however, and without mishap. 2 

For the men, observing the outline of the strange island in the first rays 
of light before the beaches became shrouded in the smoke and dust of naval 
and air bombardment, this Easter Sunday was a day of crisis. From scale models 

1 Comdr Amph Gp 12 (CTF 55), Actn Rpt Okinawa, II-2; Comdr Transport Sq 14, Actn Rpt 
Okinawa, II— 5. 

2 Capt Donald Mulford and 1st Lt Jesse Rogers (96th Div Historians), 96th Div Actn. on Okinawa 
(cited hereafter as Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist), Introduction, p. 6 (available in Hist Div WDSS); 
381st Inf Actn Rpt Okinawa, p. 15; CTF 53 Actn Rpt, II-B-i; CTF 55 Actn Rpt Okinawa, II-2. 



WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 



6 9 



of Okinawa studied on shipboard they had seen that the rising ground behind 
the landing beaches, and even more the island's hills and escarpments, were well 
suited for defense. They had read of the native houses, each protected by a high 
wall, and of the thousands of strange Okinawan tombs which might serve the 
enemy as pillboxes and dugouts. They had been encouraged by the weakness 
of Kerama Retto's defenses, but the generally held expectations of an all-out 
defense of the beaches on the first Japanese "home" island to be invaded was one 
to appall even the dullest imagination. And behind the beaches the men were 
prepared to meet deadly snakes, awesome diseases, and a presumably hostile 
civilian population. 3 

The Landing 

H Hour had been set for 0830. At 0406 Admiral Turner, Commander of Task 
Force 51, signaled, "Land the Landing Force." 4 At 0530, twenty minutes before 
dawn, the fire support force of 10 battleships, 9 cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 177 
gunboats began the pre-H-Hour bombardment of the beaches. They fired 44,825 
rounds of 5-inch or larger shells, 33,000 rockets, and 22,500 mortar shells. This 
was the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever to support a landing of 
troops. About seventy miles east of Okinawa, Task Force 58 was deployed to 
furnish air support and to intercept attacks from Kyushu. In addition, support 
carriers had arrived with troop convoys. At 0745 carrier planes struck the beaches 
and near-by trenches with napalm. 5 

Meanwhile LST's and LSM's, which had carried to the target both the 
men composing the first assault forces and the amphibian vehicles in which 
they were to ride, spread their yawning jaws and launched their small craft, 
loaded and ready for the shore. Amphibian tanks formed the first wave at 
the line of departure, 4,000 yards from the beach. Flagged on their way at 
0800, they proceeded toward land at four knots. From five to seven waves of 
assault troops in amphibian tractors followed the tanks at short intervals. 6 

3 Capt Russell Gugeler (7th Div Historian), The Opns of the 7th Inf Div on Okinawa (hereafter cited 
as Gugeler, 7th Div Hist), pp. 10-11. 

4 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7— III— 1 ; 1st Marine Div Actn Rpt, Nansei Shoto Opn, 1 Apr-30 Jun 45, 
Ch. VII, p. 2; CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-B-II-2, 3; Comdr Amph Gp 4 Pac Fit (CTF 53), Actn Rpt Okinawa 
Gunto, 20 Jul 45, III— 1 2 ; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 69. 

5 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II— 1 5 ; Tenth Army Actn Rpt. 11-V-6; CTF 58 Actn Rpt Okinawa, Incl A, p. 3, and 
II— 5 ; CTF 53 Actn Rpt, III— 13. 

"Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 17; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 69; CTF 53 Actn Rpt, III— 13; XXIV 
Corps Actn Rpt, Fig. 3, following p. 19. 



7 o 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Opposite each landing beach, control craft, with pennants flying from the 
mast, formed the assault waves of amphibious vehicles in rotating circles. At 
0815 tne leading waves of amtracks uncoiled and formed a line near their 
mother control craft. Five minutes later the pennants were hauled down and 
an almost unbroken 8-mile line of landing craft moved toward the beaches. 

Gunboats led the way in, firing rockets, mortars, and 40-mm. guns into 
prearranged target squares, on such a scale that all the landing area for 1,000 
yards inland was blanketed with enough 5-inch shells, 4.5-inch rockets, and 
4.2-inch mortars to average 25 rounds in each 100-yard square. Artillery fire 
from Keise added its weight. After approaching the reef, the gunboats turned 
aside and the amphibian tanks and tractors passed through them and pro- 
ceeded unescorted, the tanks firing their 75-mm. howitzers at targets of oppor- 
tunity directly ahead of them until landing. Simultaneously, two 64-plane 
groups of carrier planes saturated the landing beaches and the areas immediately 
behind with machine-gun fire while the fire from supporting ships shifted 
inland. When the assault wave moved in, the landing area had been under 
constant bombardment for three hours. 7 

As the small boats made their way steadily toward the shore the men 
kept expecting fire from the Japanese. But there was no sign of the enemy other 
than the dropping of an occasional mortar or artillery shell, and the long line 
of invasion craft advanced as though on a large-scale maneuver. The offshore 
obstacles had either been removed by the underwater demolition teams or 
were easily pushed over by the amphibian tractors. Some concern had been 
felt as to whether, despite the rising tide, the Navy landing boats would be 
able to cross the coral reef, and the first waves were to inspect the reef and 
send back information. The reef did not hinder the first waves, in amphibian 
vehicles, but those who followed in boats had difficulty and were therefore 
ordered to transfer at the edge of the reef and cross in LVT's. 

Beginning at 0830, the first waves began to touch down on their assigned 
beaches. None was more than a few minutes late. The volume of supporting 
fire had increased until a minute or two before the first wave landed; then 
suddenly the heavy fire on the beach area ended and nothing was to be heard 
except the rumble of the shells that were shifted inland. Quickly the smoke 
and dust that had shrouded the landing area lifted, and it became possible 
for the troops to see the nature of the country directly before them. They 

7 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-C-7 and III— 9, 10; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 70, 76; XXIV Corps Actn 
Rpt, p. 34; 1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 2. 




BOMBARDING THE BEACHES directly preceded the landings. It was carried on at 
closest range by roc\et gunboats of the U. S. fleet. These boats led the way to the Hagushi 
beaches, turned aside just outside the reefs, and alloived amphibian tan\s and tractors 
(below) to proceed ashore unescorted. Meanwhile the Tennessee and other American 
battleships kept up a steady support barrage. 




72 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



were on a beach which was generally about twenty yards in depth and which was 
separated by a io-foot sea wall from the country beyond. There were few shell 
holes on the beach itself, but naval gunfire had blown large holes in the sea 
wall at frequent intervals to provide adequate passageways. 8 Except at the 
cliff-bordered Bishi River mouth, in the center of the landing area, the ground 
rose gradually to an elevation of about fifty feet. There was only sparse natural 
vegetation, but from the sea wall to the top of the rise the coastal ground was 
well cultivated. In the background, along the horizon, hills showed through 
the screen of artillery smoke. Farther inland, in many places, towns and 
villages could be seen burning and the smoke rising above them in slender 
and twisted spires. These evidences of devastation, however, made less impres- 
sion upon the men than did the generally peaceful and idyllic nature of the 
country, enhanced by the pleasant warmth, the unexpected quiet, and the 
absence of any sign of human life. 

New waves of troops kept moving in. Before an hour had passed III Am- 
phibious Corps had landed the assault elements of the 6th and ist Marine 
Divisions abreast north of the Bishi River, and XXIV Corps had put ashore those 
of the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions abreast south of that river. The 6th Marine 
Division and the 96th Division were on the flanks. Two battalion landing teams 
from each of two assault regimental combat teams in the four divisions, or more 



than 16,000 troops, came ashore in the first hour. 9 (See Map No. V.) 

The assault troops were followed by a wave of tanks. Some were equipped 
with flotation devices, others were carried by LCM(6)'s which had themselves 
been transported by LSD's, and still others were landed by LSM's. After debark- 
ing the assault waves, the amphibian tractors returned to the transfer line to 
ferry support troops, equipment, and supplies across the reef onto the beach. 
LVT, DUKW, and small-boat control points were established at the transfer 
line. Amphibian vehicles preloaded with ammunition and supplies proceeded 
inland as needed. 10 

The entire landing on Okinawa had taken place with almost incredible ease. 
There had been little molestation from enemy artillery, and on the beaches 

8 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7— III— i and 11-IX-7; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 69, xoi; XXIV Corps 
Actn Rpt, p. 24; ist Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 3; 32c! Inf Actn Rpt, p. 3; 780th Tank Bn Actn Rpt, p. 24. 

9 Maj Roy E. Appleman (XXIV Corps Historian), The 'XXIV Corps in the Conquest of Okinawa 
(hereafter cited as Appleman, XXIV Corps Hist), p. 89; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 69; ist Mar Div 
Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 3. 

10 Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 18; Appleman, XXIV Corps Hist, p. 91; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, n-IX-6; 
III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 69, 70, 99, 101. 




THE LANDINGS were made in amphibian craft which were shepherded to shore by 
control craft (arrows). Heavy support fire which had blanketed the beaches with smo\e 
and dust lifted seconds before the first troops touched down. Absence of enemy opposition 
to the landings made the assault seem li\e a large-scale maneuver as troops ( below ) left their 
craft and quickly consolidated. Other waves followed closefa. 




74 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



no enemy and few land mines had been encountered. The operation had taken 
place generally according to plan ; there was little disorganization and all but a 
few of the units landed at the beaches assigned to them. The absence of any but 
the most trivial opposition, so contrary to expectation, struck the men as ominous 
and led them to reconnoiter suspiciously. After making certain that they were 
not walking into a trap, the troops began moving inland, according to plan, a 
very short time after they had landed. 

Spirits rose as the marines and soldiers easily pushed up the hillsides behind 
the beaches. The land was dry and green with conifers and the air bracing — a 
welcome change from the steaming marshes and palm trees of the islands to the 
south. An infantryman of the 7th Division, standing atop a hill just south of 
the Bishi River soon after the landing, expressed the common feeling when he 
said, "I've already lived longer than I thought I would." 11 

Simultaneously with the landing Maj. Gen. Thomas E. Watson's 2d Marine 
Division feinted a landing on Okinawa's southeast coast, above Minatoga, with 
the hope of pinning down the enemy's reserves in that area. This diversion simu- 
lated an actual assault in every respect. The first part of the demonstration group 
left Saipan on 25 March, and the main body arrived at Okinawa early in the 
morning of L Day. The Japanese attacked the force with their suicide planes, 
and one transport and an LST were damaged. Under cover of a smoke screen, 
seven boat waves, each composed of twenty-four LCVP's, carried 2d Marine 
Division troops toward the beach. As the fourth wave crossed the line of depar- 
ture at 0830 — H Hour for the main assault on the Hagushi beaches — all boats 
reversed course. By 1500 all the landing vessels had been recovered by their 
parent vessels. The only enemy reaction to the demonstration was one salvo 
of four rounds. The next day the demonstration was repeated, and the marines 
retired from the area. Proudly the Japanese boasted that "an enemy landing 
attempt on the eastern coast of Okinawa on Sunday morning [1 April] was 
completely foiled, with heavy losses to the enemy." 12 

Moving Inland 

Having ascended the slight hills at the landing beaches, the troops moved 
inland cautiously. Their immediate objectives were the two airfields, Kadena 
and Yontan, each about a mile inland. At 1000 the 17th RCT of the 7th Divi- 

"Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 24; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IX-6; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 99. 
12 CINCPOA Operations in POA, April 1945, p. 42. 



WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 



75 



sion had patrols on Kadena airfield, which was found to be deserted, and at 
1030 the front line was moving across the airstrip. A few minutes later it 
was 200 yards beyond. With similar ease the 4th Marines of the 6th Marine 
Division captured the more elaborate Yontan airfield by 1130. Wrecked Jap- 
anese planes and quantities of supplies were strewn about on both fields. 13 

By nightfall the beachhead was 15,000 yards long and in places as much 
as 5,000 yards deep. More than 60,000 men were ashore, including the reserve 
regiments of the assault divisions. All divisional artillery landed early, and, 
by dark, direct-support battalions were in position. Numerous tanks were 
ashore and operating, as well as miscellaneous antiaircraft artillery units and 
15,000 service troops. Kadena airfield was serviceable for emergency landings 
by the evening of the first day. The 6th Marine Division halted for the night 
on a line running from Irammiya to the division boundary below Makibaru. 
The 7th Division had pressed inland nearly three miles, knocking out a few 
pillboxes and losing three tanks to mines. On the southern flank, the 96th 
Division had established itself at the river south of Chatan, on the high ground 
northwest of Futema, in the outskirts of Momobaru, and in the hills northwest 
and southwest of Shido. There were gaps in the lines in many places, but 
before nightfall they had been covered by reserve units or by weapons. 14 

Although in the hills around Shuri the enemy had superb observation of 
the Hagushi beaches and of the great American armada that stood off shore, 
he had been content for the time being to leave the burden of opposition to 
the Japanese air force. Some delaying actions were fought by small groups of 
Japanese, and some rounds of artillery and mortar fire were directed at the 
landing craft and the beaches, but the total resistance was negligible. 

In the air the enemy did his best, but did not inflict much damage. Thrown 
off balance by the strikes of Task Force 58 against the airfields on Kyushu on 
18-19 March, Japanese air resistance to the landings was aggressively pressed 
home but was small in scale. Suicide hits were scored on the battleship West 

"Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 25; Capt Phillips D. Carleton (6th Mar Div Historian), The 6th Marine 
Div in Northern Okinawa (hereafter cited as Carleton, 6th Mar Div Hist), p. 11; Steven-Burns, Okinawa 
Diary, entry 15 Apr 45; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 33. 

14 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, III— 9, and Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7— III— 2, give the number of troops landed as 
50,000. A survey of unit reports indicates a figure of 60,000 as more accurate. See 382d Inf (96th Div) 
Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 1; 7th Div Opn Rpt, p. 38; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 33; 1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. 
VII, p. 3; Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 26. On the Kadena airfield, see CTF 55 Actn Rpt, III — 7. For the front 
lines at the end of L Day, see III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 1 Apr 45; 1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, 
pp. 2, 3; 17th Inf (7th Div), Actn Rpt, map opp. p. 14, Ch. VII; 32d Inf (7th Div) G-3 Periodic Rpt, 1 Apr 
45; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 5, 7, and Pt. II, pp. 5, 9, 10. 



7 6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Virginia, two transports, and an LST; another LST was damaged by a suicide 
plane's near miss, and two ships were damaged in other ways. 15 An indefinite 
number of Japanese planes were shot down during the day by ships' fire and 
defending fighters. 16 

Favored by perfect weather and light resistance, American forces moved 
swiftly during the next two days, 2 and 3 April. By 1400 on 2 April the 17th 
Infantry, 7th Division, had established itself on the highlands commanding 
Nakagusuku Bay, on the east coast, and had extended its patrols to the shore 
of the bay. The speed of its advance had left the units on its flanks some 
distance behind. To the south the 32d Infantry came abreast late in the after- 
noon of 2 April, after reducing a strong point south of Koza with tanks. 
To the north, where the 1st Marine Division had encountered rugged terrain 
and difficult supply problems, a 6,000-yard gap was taken over by the 184th 
Infantry. Okinawa was now cut in two, and units of the Japanese Army in 
the northern and southern parts of the island were separated. 17 

The 96th Division made slow progress during the morning of 2 April 
in the country around Shido. Here it found heavily forested ridges, empty caves 
and dugouts, and mines and tank traps along the rough trails. Before evening 
the 381st Infantry had pushed through Shimabuku but had been stopped by 
enemy opposition in and around Momobaru. After a sharp fight the 383d In- 
fantry took a hill just south of Momobaru, and with the help of an air strike, 
artillery, and tanks it reduced a ridge northeast of Futema. That night its lines 
stretched from the west coast just north of Isa to a point southwest of Futema 
on the Isa-Futema road and along the northern edge of Futema. 18 

On 3 April XXIV Corps turned its drive southward. Leaving the 17th Infan- 
try to guard and consolidate its rear, the 32d Infantry pushed all three of its bat- 
talions southward along Nakagusuku Bay. After gaining 5,000 yards it occupied 
Kuba and set up its lines in front of Hill 165, the coastal extremity of a line 
of hills that swept southwest of the village. Fire was received from the hill, and 
a few Japanese were killed in a brief fire fight. Ten rounds of enemy artillery 
were received in the regiment's sector, a sign of awakening resistance. 19 

15 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, p. 42; CTF 51 Actn Rpt, IV-75H; CTF 58 Actn Rpt, I-7. 
16 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, IV-75ff; CTF 53 Actn Rpt, I-A-i; XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 24; 1st Mar Div 
Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 2. 

1T Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 29. 

18 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. ioff, and Pt. II, pp. 1 iff. 

19 Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, pp. 32ff. 



WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 



77 



Coordinating their advance with that of the 326. Infantry on their left, 
elements of the 96th Division moved toward Hill 165 and Unjo. An unsuccessful 
attempt was made to take the hill. Other 96th Division units advanced to posi- 
tions in the vicinity of Kishaba and Atanniya and northeast of Nodake. Futema 
and the high ground 600 yards south of it were taken. On the west flank the 
division's line went through Isa to the southeastern edge of Chiyunna. 20 

Having completed its wheeling movement to the right, the 96th Division 
was ready to drive south in conjunction with the 7th Division. Civilians and 
prisoners of war stated that Japanese troops had withdrawn to the south. XXIV 
Corps now changed the boundary line between its two assault divisions. On the 
next day, 4 April, four regiments were to move into line across the narrow 
waist of the island — the 32d and the 184th of the 7th Division on the east, and 
the 382d and the 383d of the 96th Division on the west. The real battle for 
Okinawa would then begin. 21 

Meanwhile, in the zone of III Amphibious Corps, the 1st Marine Division 
continued on 2 April 1945 to the line Ishimmi-Kutoku and Chatan. It met a few 
small pockets of resistance but was slowed mainly by the primitive roads and 
rough terrain. On the following day this division again advanced against little 
opposition, its forward elements reaching Nakagusuku (Buckner) Bay by 1600. 
At the same time its reconnaissance company explored Katchin Peninsula and 
the east coast roads north to Hizaonna. On 4 April all three regiments of the 
1 st Marine Division were on the eastern shore of Okinawa, and the division's 
zone of action was completely occupied. 22 

On L plus 1, the 6th Marine Division continued its advance into the foot- 
hills of Yontan-Zan, patrolled the peninsula northwest of the Hagushi beaches, 
and captured the coastal town of Nagahama. In this mountainous sector, 
well-worn trails crisscrossed the wooded hills and ridges, and caves pitted the 
coral walls and steep defiles. By manning both ridge tops and caves, the Jap- 
anese put up tenacious resistance. The 6th Marine Division killed about 250 
of the enemy in two such strong points on 2 April. Next day it advanced 
7,000 yards, the 22d Marines on the left maintaining supply through rough 
wild country by "weasels." One more day's march would bring this division 
to the L-plus-15 line drawn from Nakodamari to Ishikawa. 23 

20 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 12H. 

21 Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 35; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 17, 18. 
23 1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, pp. 4-5, and maps. 

23 Carleton, 6th Mar Div Hist, pp. 15-18; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7— III— 3 . 




MOVING INLAND, American troops at first met little or no opposition. South of Kadena 
airfield, in coral crags deeply scarred by naval bombardment, 96th Division infantrymen 
engaged in their first hill and cave fighting in Okinawa. Other 96th Division troops, in am- 
phibian tanks (below), turned south on the right flank and paused just north of Sunabe to 
reconnoiter; here they raised the American flag. 




WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 



79 



The tempo of Japanese air attacks increased somewhat during the first 
three or four days after L Day, and many ships were damaged and some lost 
during this period. Vessels not actually engaged in unloading withdrew some 
distance from Okinawa each night, but this did not make them proof against 
attack. The Henrico, an assault transport carrying troops and the regimental 
staff of the 305th Infantry, 77th Division, was crashed by a suicide plane south 
of the Keramas at 1900 on 2 April. The plane struck the commodore's cabin and 
plunged through two decks, its bomb exploding on the second deck. The com- 
modore was killed, as were also the commanding officer, the executive officer, 
the S-i, and the S-3 of the 305th. The ship's total casualties were 30 killed, 
6 missing, and 50 injured. 24 

Organizing the Beachhead 

The first waves of the troops were no sooner across the beaches and moving 
up the slopes than the complex machinery of supplying them, planned in intri- 
cate detail over long months, went into action. The problem was to move food, 
ammunition, and equipment for more than 100,000 men across beaches with 
a fringing reef from 200 to 400 yards wide 20 to dumps in rear areas, and then 
to the troops; to widen the native roads; to repair the captured airfields; and 
to alleviate the inevitable distress of the civilian population while rendering 
it incapable of interference. 

While the beaches varied widely in serviceability, they were in general 
well adapted to unloading purposes. LCM's and LCVP's could cross the reef 
for four or five hours at each flood tide and unload directly on the beach; 
during middle and low tides their cargoes had to be transferred to amphibian 
vehicles at transfer barges. LST's, LSM's, and LCT's were beached on the 
reef at high tide to enable vehicles and equipment to be discharged during 
the next low tide, and the bulk cargo by DUKW's and LVT's at any tide. 
Various expedients were used to hasten the unloading. Night unloading under 
floodlights began on 2 April, and the work proceeded without interruption 
except when enemy aircraft was in the vicinity. Ponton causeways accommo- 
dating LST's were established at predetermined sites. By 4 April a T-pier, 
with a 300-foot single-lane approach and a 30- by 170-foot head, and a U-pier, 

2i Fifteen ships of Task Force 51 were damaged and three others lost from 2 to 5 April. CTF 51 Actn 
Rpt, IV-75ff, 94-98, and III— 1 0, 12, 13; 305th Inf Opn Rpt, 1-27 Apr 45, p. 3. 
25 III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 125. 



8o 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



with two 500-foot approaches and a 60- by 175-foot wharf section, had been 
set up on the beaches. The piers were soon supplanted by six single-lane cause- 
ways. By the same day an L-shaped pier, with a 1,400-foot single-lane approach 
and a 45- by 175-foot head, had been completed. Several sand piers were 
also constructed. As the marines rolled northward, additional unloading points 
were established as far north as Nago. Ponton barges carried to Okinawa 
on cargo ships were assigned varying jobs from day to day. By 11 April, 25 had 
been equipped with cranes and were operating as transfer barges, 53 were 
operating as lighters, and 6 as petroleum barges, while 8 were being used for 
evacuating casualties. A crane barge was capable of handling 400 tons in a 
20-hour day when enough amphibian vehicles were available to make the 
runs ashore. 26 

Control of operations on the beaches, initially in the battalion landing 
teams, passed step by step through the echelons of command until Tenth 
Army, acting through the Island Command and the 1st Engineer Special 
Brigade, assumed responsibility on 9 April. Navy beachmasters maintained 
liaison with the ships and scheduled the beaching of landing ships and the 
assignment of lighterage. General unloading began on 3 April. It was soon 
apparent that the limiting factor was the availability of transport from the 
beaches to the dumps. The shortage of service units and equipment due to 
space limitations was immediately felt, especially in the Army zone; the 
problem was eased for the Marines by the use of 5,000 replacements landed 
with the Marine divisions. The rapidity of the advance and the immediate 
uncovering of Yontan and Kadena airfields required a rearrangement of supply 
priorities. The difficulties in initiating so intricate an undertaking near the 
enemy's homeland were prodigious, and it required time and the process of 
trial and error to overcome them. Suicide planes and suicide boats were a con- 
stant menace, and on the afternoon of 4 April the weather came to the aid 
of the enemy. A storm, bringing with it from 6- to 10-foot surf on the Hagushi 
beaches, lasted through the night and the following day. All unloading ceased, 
and some landing craft hit against the reef and were damaged. Again on 10 
April surf backed by a high wind brought work to a standstill, and on 11 
April conditions were but slightly improved. Rain accompanying these storms 
made quagmires of the roads and further complicated the supply problems. 
Despite these handicaps, the assault shipping was 80 percent unloaded by 

"Ibid., CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-I-23-26 and V-J-14-16; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, n-IV-14. 



WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 



81 



16 April, and 577,000 measurement tons had crossed the Hagushi beaches, a 
larger amount than had been anticipated in the plans. 27 

In addition to beach installations, base facilities necessary for the immediate 
success of the operation had to be developed quickly. Existing roads had to be 
improved and new roads built; the two airfields required repairs and expansion; 
and facilities for bulk storage of petroleum products, especially aviation gas, with 
connections to tankers off shore, were urgently needed. It was not long before 
the road down the west coast of Okinawa blossomed with markers which pro- 
claimed it "US 1," and route numbers were similarly assigned to all main roads 
as they were taken, in accordance with the Engineers' plans. Okinawa's roads 
were, for the most part, unsurfaced and only one or one and one-half lanes in 
width. On L Day beach-exit and shore-party dump roads were improved; next, 
the main supply routes to the troops and roads to permanent and semipermanent 
supply installations. During the rains of 4-5 and 10-11 April the spinning wheels 
of endless lines of trucks soon tore through the crusts of the more traveled high- 
ways and became mired. In dry weather the surface became pulverized, and the 
heavy military traffic raised clouds of dust that sometimes cut visibility to the 
length of the hood. Engineers widened and resurfaced the main thoroughfares, 
using coral from existing and newly opened pits, coral sand, rubble from de- 
stroyed villages, and limestone. Bridges that were too narrow or too weak to carry 
American trucks and tanks were soon replaced by Bailey bridges, which could 
be set up and taken down much in the fashion of an Erector span. It was late in 
April before equipment was available for the construction of gasoline tank 
farms. 28 

An area 30 feet by 3,000 feet on the Yontan runway was cleared and the 
bomb craters filled on L Day; by the evening Kadena was also ready for emer- 
gency landings. 29 Nineteen artillery spotting planes were flown in from CVE's 
and LST's on 2 April and began operations on 3 April. 30 The work of condition- 
ing the two fields began in earnest the following day. 31 Land-based fighter 
groups arrived at Yontan on 7 April and at Kadena two days later, improving 
local control of the air and making more aircraft available for support. Air 

27 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-I-22-26; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-12, 14, 17; personal observation of 
road conditions by Lt Col John Stevens. 

28 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-24-29 and 11-XI-7; personal observation of traffic conditions by 
Lt Col John Stevens. 

29 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 1 1-VII-3; CTF 55 Actn Rpt, III— 7. 
80 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 47, 48. 

31 III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 114; personal observation at Kadena airfield by Lt Col John Stevens. 




SUPPLYING AND DEVELOPING THE BEACHHEAD had by L plus 3 made sub- 
stantial progress. Supply ships were run in to the reefs edge, where they unloaded into 
trucks or amphibian vehicles. Indentation in shore line is Bishi River mouth, with Yontan 
airfield on horizon beyond; one runway (below) had been sufficiently repaired to allow use 
of land-based fighter planes. 




WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD 



83 



evacuation of the wounded to the Marianas by specially equipped C-54's began 
on 8 April. 32 At the same time a C-47 equipped for spraying DDT was brought 
into Yontan to take over the sanitation mission performed since 2 April by 
carrier-based aircraft. 33 The 69th Field Hospital landed on 3 April and received 
its first casualties two days later. Until it was established, the divisions had 
evacuated their casualties immediately by LCVP's and DUKW's to one of eight 
LST(H)'s lying off the Hagushi beaches. Each hospital ship could take care 
of 200 patients and perform emergency surgery. By 16 April Army and Marine 
hospitals ashore had a capacity of 1,800 beds. 34 

Thousands of destitute Okinawans, dazed by the preinvasion bombard- 
ment of their island and the swift advance of the Americans, entered the 
custody of the Military Government authorities almost at once. Initially placed 
in stockades to keep them out of the way, they were quickly moved to selected 
villages which had escaped destruction. Thus by 5 April 1,500 civilians held 
in a barbed wire enclosure just south of Kadena were being moved by truck 
to Shimabuku, where they would have freedom of movement within bound- 
aries established by the military police. Other collection points were similarly 
emptied and closed. 35 

Thus, in an amazingly short time the beachhead had been won and the 
supply lines established. By 4 April Tenth Army held a slice of Okinawa 15 
miles long and from 3 to 10 miles wide. The beachhead included two air- 
fields of great potentialities, beaches that could take immense tonnage from 
the cargo ships, and sufficient space for the dumps and installations that were 
rapidly being built. The months of planning and preparation had borne their 
first fruit. 

82 Apple nan, XXIV Corps Hist, p. 136. 

33 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-VII-4. 

34 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, n-XV-8. 

36 Stevens-Burns, Okinawa Diary, 5 Apr 45. 



CHAPTER IV 

Where Is the Enemy? 



The ease with which American forces landed and established themselves 
on Okinawa gave rise to widespread speculation as to the whereabouts of the 
Japanese Army. The most optimistic view was that the enemy had been stra- 
tegically outguessed and had prepared for the Americans at some other island, 
such as Formosa. Or, if Okinawa was not to be another Kiska, there was the 
possibility that the Marine diversion in the south had drawn the Japanese 
forces to that area. While the real attack forces approached by a roundabout 
route, covered by an early morning fog and artificial smoke, the approach 
of the diversion troops had been in full view of the enemy. Again, the Jap- 
anese might be conserving their strength for a bold counterattack as soon as 
American forces should be irrevocably committed to the beaches; but the time 
for such a counterattack came and went and still the enemy gave no sign. 

The truth was, as the Americans were soon to discover, that the enemy 
was indeed on Okinawa in great strength, and that he had a well-thought-out 
plan for meeting the invasion. 1 

The Japanese Forces 

The task of defending the Ryukyus was entrusted to the Japanese jid 
Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima. 2 General Ushijima had 
assumed command in August 1944, relieving Lt. Gen. Masao Watanabe who 
had activated the yid Army in the preceding April. On assuming command, 
General Ushijima and his chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Isamu Cho, had reorganized 
the staff of the Army, replacing the incumbents with bright young officers 
from Imperial Headquarters. As reconstituted, the staff was distinguished by 
its youth, low rank, and ability. Col. Hiromichi Yahara, the only holdover from 
the old staff, was retained as senior staff officer in charge of operations. 

1 Stevens-Burns, Okinawa Diary, entries for 3 and 4 April. 

1 Unless otherwise noted, the account of the Japanese units and weapons on Okinawa was taken from 
Tenth Army G-2 Combat Intelligence Collecting Agency (CICA), Prisoner of War Interrogation Sum- 
maries, Nos. 1— 19, Jul— Aug 45. These summaries are based on extensive interrogations of a large number 
of prisoners captured for the most part at the end of the campaign. A good deal of the material in Tenth 
Army G—2 Intelligence Monograph, Ryukyus Campaign, Aug 45, Pts. I-V, is based on these summaries. 
The original typescript summaries are, however, fuller and more accurate sources. 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



85 



General Ushijima, according to the members of his staff, was a calm and 
very capable officer who inspired confidence among his troops. He had com- 
manded an infantry group in Burma early in the war and came to his new 
assignment from the position of Commandant of the Japanese Military Academy 
at Zama. General Cho was a hard-driving, aggressive officer who had occupied 
high staff positions with the troops in China, Malaya, and Burma and had 
come to Okinawa from the Military Affairs Bureau of the War Department in 
Tokyo. Colonel Yahara enjoyed the reputation of being a brilliant tactician, 
conservative and calculating in his decisions. The combination of Ushijima's 
mature judgment, Cho's supple mind and aggressive energy, and the shrewd 
discernment of Yahara gave the yid Army a balanced and impressively able 
high command. 3 

Prior to the activation of the jzd Army on 1 April 1944, Okinawa had been 
defended by a small and poorly trained garrison force. In June, before the Amer- 
ican landings in the Marianas, the Japanese planned to reinforce the garrison 
with nine infantry and three artillery battalions. 4 The first reinforcement to reach 
Okinawa was the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, which arrived late in June. 
The gth Division landed on the island in July and was followed in August 
by the 6id Division and the 24th Division. Artillery, supporting troops, and 
service elements arrived during the summer and fall of 1944. 

The Japanese plans for the defense of the Ryukyus were disrupted when 
the veteran 9th Division left Okinawa for Formosa early in December, as part 
of the stream of reinforcements started toward the Philippines after the invasion 
of Leyte. It was intended to replace the division, but shortage of shipping made 
this impossible. Of the remaining combat units, the 6id Division was considered 
by the commanding general and his staff to be the best in the 32^ Army. Com- 
manded by Lt. Gen. Takeo Fujioka, the division was formed from the 63d and 
64th Brigades, each consisting of four independent infantry battalions which 
had fought in China since 1938. It lacked divisional artillery but by April 1945 
had been brought up to a strength of about 14,000 by the addition of two inde- 
pendent infantry battalions and a number of Boeitai (Okinawa Home Guards). 

8 See Tenth Army G-2 PW Interrog Rpt No. 28, 6 Aug 45 (hereafter cited as Interrog Yahara). This 
is a verbatim report of the interrogation of Col. Hiromichi Yahara, senior staff officer, the most important 
Japanese officer captured on Okinawa. Also Tenth Army G-2 PW Interrog Rpt No. 27, 24 Jul 45 (hereafter 
cited as Interrog Shimada), a verbatim report of the interrogation of Akira Shimada, civilian secretary to 
General Cho. 

4 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 194-45: Empire Defense Opns Plan, Special Transl No. 86, 7 Aug 
45. PP- 5> 6. The Japanese plan was dated 15 Jun 44. 




JAPANESE COMMANDERS on Okinawa (photographed early in February 1^4$). In 
center: (1) Admiral Minora Ota, (2) Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, (3) Lt. Gen. Isamu Cho } 
(4) Col. Hitoshi Kanayama, (5) CoL Kifyuji Hongo, and (6) Col. Hiromicki Yahara. 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



87 



As finally organized, each of the independent infantry battalions was composed 
of five rifle companies, a machine gun company, and an infantry gun company, 



with a total battalion strength of approximately 1,200 men. (See Chart V.) 

Unlike the 62^ Division, the 24th was a triangular division, consisting of the 
22^, ^2d, and 8gth Infantry Regiments and the qui Field Artillery Regiment; 
it had never seen combat. In January 1945 each of the infantry regiments had 
incorporated 300 Okinawan conscripts into its ranks and had been reorganized. 
After the reorganization a regiment consisted of three battalions of three rifle 
companies each, with each company reduced from 290 to 180 men. The total 
strength of the division, including Okinawans, was more than 15,000. 

The 44th Independent Mixed Brigade consisted of the 2d Infantry Unit 
and the i$th Independent Mixed Regiment and had a strength of about 5,000 
men. The brigade had lost most of its original personnel by American sub- 
marine action while en route to Okinawa in June 1944, and it had been recon- 
structed around a nucleus of 600 survivors. The latter, plus replacements from 
Kyushu and conscripted Okinawans, were reorganized into the 2d Infantry 
Unit, of approximately regimental strength but without a full complement of 
weapons and equipment. The i$th Independent Mixed Regiment was flown 
to Okinawa at the end of June 1944 and assigned to the brigade. In addition 
to its three battalions of infantry, it had engineering troops and an antitank 
company; by the addition of native conscripts and Boeitai it had been brought 
by April 1945 to a strength of almost 2^800 men. 

To add to the three major combat infantry units, General Ushijima in 
February 1945 converted seven sea-raiding battalions, formed to man suicide 
boats, into independent battalions for duty as infantry troops to fill the serious 
shortage resulting from the withdrawal of the gth Division. These battalions had 
a strength of approximately 900 men each and were divided among the major 
infantry commands. Counting these additions there was a total of thirty-one 
battalions of infantry on Okinawa, of which thirty were in the southern part. 

Independent artillery units constituted an important part of the reinforce- 
ments sent to Okinawa. Two regiments of 150-mm. howitzers, one regiment of 
75-mm. and 120-mm. guns, and one heavy artillery battalion of 150-mm. guns 
were on the island by the end of 1944 to supplement the organic divisional artil- 
lery and infantry cannon. For the first time in the Pacific war, Japanese artillery 
was under a unified command; all artillery units, with the exception of divisional 
artillery, were under the control of the $th Artillery Command. Most of the 
personnel of the command, which numbered 3,200, had served in other cam- 



CHART V 

uzaiton of the Japanese 6zd Division in Okinawa 



62D DIV HQ 



DIV 
TRANS UNIT 



FLD HOSP 



S3D 
BRIG HQ 



MTR 
TRANS CO 



HORSE CO 



X HMGS 



I 100 



1ST 
IND INF BN 



iST RIFLE CO 



DIV 
ENGR UNIT 



64TH 
BRIG HQ 



15TH IND 
INF BN 



DIV 

SIG UNIT 



21 



VET HOSP 



L LOU 



21ST IND 
INF BN 



INF BN 



23D IND 
INF BN 



273D IND 
INF BN 



{ATTACHED* 



\ 2XH 
IND INF BN 



I MtfJ 



13TH 

IND INF BN 



now 



MTU 



IND 



650 



IND INF BN 



(ATTACHED) 



2D RIFLE CO 



3D RIFLE CO 



4TH RIFLE CO 



9 LMC'S 
9 KNEE MOKTAKS 



5TH RIFLE CO 



MG CO 



INF GUN CO 



10 HMG S 



losrrf.' Tcnili Army C-J DlUili^tUt Mon Di( riph Ryukym Cimp^pn, Pirc L. Srt. H. p. 10. 



2 GUNS (7S-MM) 
2 HOWS (?(^MM) 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



8 9 



paigns and had been with their units for three or four years. They were well 
trained by Japanese standards and were considered among the best artillerymen 
in the Japanese Army. 

About 10,000 naval personnel were organized into the Okinawa Naval 
Base Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Minoru Ota, which had control of 
all naval establishments and activities in the Ryukyus. The unit was largely 
concentrated on Oroku Peninsula and just before the American landings was 
reorganized as a ground combat force for the defense of the peninsula. Only 
about 200 of the Force, however, had had more than superficial training in 
ground combat. 

Other important units on Okinawa included the 2jth Tan\ Regiment of 
about 750 men, 4 independent machine gun battalions totaling over 1,600 men, 
an independent mortar regiment of 600 men, 2 light mortar battalions com- 
prising 1,200 men, 4 antiaircraft artillery battalions totaling 2,000 men, 3 
machine cannon battalions with 1,000 men, and 3 independent antitank bat- 
talions and 4 independent antitank companies totaling about 1,600 men. There 
were also from 22,000 to 23,000 service troops of various kinds. 

At the time of the American landings on Okinawa, about 20,000 Boeitai 
had been mobilized by the Japanese for duty as labor and service troops. 
Though these men were for the most part not armed, they performed valuable 
services as ammunition and supply carriers at the front lines and also engaged 
in numerous front-line and rear-area construction and other duties. Some 
eventually saw combat. The Boeitai are not to be confused with the Okinawan 
conscripts and reservists who were called up and assimilated into the regular 
army just as were the Japanese in the home islands. The first group of Boeitai 
was assembled in June 1944 to work on the construction of airfields, but the 
general mobilization of natives into "National Home Defense Units" was not 
ordered until January 1945, after the departure of the gth Division. About 17,000 
Okinawans between the ages of seventeen and forty-five were drafted to serve 
as Boeitai. In addition, about 750 male students of the middle schools, fourteen 
years of age and over, were organized into Blood and Iron for the Emperor 
Duty Units and trained for guerilla warfare. Further drafts of Boeitai were 
made at various times during the battle. In addition to the Boeitai a large num- 
ber of Okinawan civilians were conscripted into the Japanese forces either to 
increase the strength of existing units or to organize new units. While the actual 
number of Okinawans serving with the 32^ Army has not been determined, 
available evidence indicates that they represented a large proportion of the total, 



50-mm. Grenade Discharger 



Hand Grenade 




WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



91 



increasing the Japanese strength by perhaps as much as one-third or more. 5 

When the Americans invaded Okinawa, the total strength of the jid Army 
amounted to more than 100,000 men, including the 20,000 Boeitai draftees and 
an unknown number of conscripted Okinawans. The army proper totaled 77,000, 
consisting of 39,000 Japanese troops in infantry combat units and 38,000 in 
special troops, artillery, and service units. (For the troop list of the yid Army, 
see I Appendix B.j 
Weapons of the 32a 1 Army 

The armament of the Japanese on Okinawa was characterized by a high 
proportion of artillery, mortar, antiaircraft, and automatic weapons in relation 
to infantry strength. Their supply of automatic weapons and mortars was gen- 
erally in excess of authorized allotments; much of this excess resulted from the 
distribution of an accumulation of such weapons intended for shipment to the 
Philippines and elsewhere but prevented by the shortage of shipping and the 
course of war from leaving the island. The Japanese also had an abundant supply 
of ammunition, mines, hand grenades, and satchel charges. 6 

On Okinawa the Japanese possessed artillery in greater quantity, size, and 
variety than had been available to them in any previous Pacific campaign. Uti- 
lizing naval coastal guns, they were able to concentrate a total of 287 guns and 
howitzers of 70-mm. or larger caliber for the defense of the island. Of this total, 
sixty-nine pieces could be classified as medium artillery, including fifty-two 
150-mm. howitzers and twelve 150-mm. guns. The smaller pieces included 170 
guns and howitzers of calibers of 70- and 75-mm. In addition, seventy-two 
75-mm. antiaircraft guns and fifty-four 20-mm. machine cannon were available 
for use in ground missions. 

The principal mortar strength of the 32a 1 Army was represented by ninety- 
six 81-mm. mortars of the two light mortar battalions. The Japanese also pos- 
sessed, in greater numbers than had previously been encountered, the large 
320-mm. mortars, commonly called spigot mortars; the 1st Artillery Mortar 
Regiment, reputed to be the only one of its kind in the Japanese Army, was armed 
with twenty-four of these. Standard equipment of the ground combat units of the 
army included about 1,100 50-mm. grenade dischargers (knee mortars). 

6 Tenth Army G— 2 CICA Transl No. 83, 19 May 45: Standard for Establishment of Nansei Shoto 
Garrison Plan, 1 Jan 45; Transl No. 228, 6 Jul 45: j2d Army Op Ord A #110, 3 Mar 45; Transl No. 76, 
15 May 45: 6id Div Op Ord A25, 8 Mar 45; Tenth Army G-2 Wkly Summary, 15 Aug 45; XXIV Corps 
G— 2 Summary No. 16, 24 Jun-i Jul 45, Incl 3: OB Summary. See also Tenth Army PW Interrog Sum- 
ma ry No. 18, 31 Jul 45: Civilian Defense Organizations. 

See also j2d Army equipment and weapons chart, 1 Dec 44, in Tenth Army Int Mono- 



See n. 2. 



graph, Pt. I, Sec. B, Order of Battle, pp. 4-7. 



9 2 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



To counter American tank strength, the Japanese relied, among other 
things, on an unusually large number of antitank guns, especially the 47-mm. 
type. The independent antitank units had a total of fifty-two 47-mm. antitank 
guns, while twenty-seven 37-mm. antitank guns were distributed among the 
other units of the Army. The entire Japanese tank force, however, consisted of 
only fourteen medium and thirteen light tanks, the heaviest weapon of which 
was the 57-mm. gun mounted on the medium tanks. 

The jid Army relied heavily on a great number of automatic weapons, well 
emplaced and plentifully supplied with ammunition. Its units possessed a total 
of 333 heavy and 1,208 light machine guns. In the course of the battle many more 
were taken from tanks being used as pillboxes and from wrecked airplanes. The 
62d Division alone wielded nearly half the automatic weapons of the 32/$ Army 
and was by far its most potent unit. 

The Japanese Plan of Defense 

The active formulation of a defense plan for the Ryukyus dates from the 
American capture of the Marianas in June and July 1944. The first plan for the 
ground defense of the Ryukyus was established in a Army directive of 19 July 
1944. This document outlined a plan to destroy the Americans at the water's 
edge; that failing, to "annihilate" them from previously constructed positions, 
embodying a fortified defense in depth. In accordance with this directive, con- 
struction of cave and underground positions began in the summer of 1944. The 
command on Okinawa was convinced that the situation was urgent and in- 
formed the troops that "the Empire is determined to fight a show-down battle 
with an all-out effort for the preservation of national unity when the enemy 
advances to the Nansei Shoto." 7 In instructions issued in August $2d Army 
Headquarters stated: 

The enemy counteroffensive has become increasingly severe and they have infiltrated 
into our central Pacific defense area and are now boldly aiming toward the Nansei Shoto. 
Should we be unable to defend the Nansei Shoto, the mainland and the southern frontier 
would become isolated. Thus, the execution of the present war would be extremely 
difficult and would become a life-and-death problem for our nation. 8 

In the early part of 1945 important changes were made in the original 
defense plan. It was decided not to attempt the destruction of the invading 

T Tenth Army Transl No. 4, 17 Apr 45: j2 Army Ord No. 82, 19 Jul 44. 
8 Tenth Army Transl: 32c! Army Instructions, 6 Aug 44. 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



93 



forces at the beaches, but to have the jzd Army offer a strong resistance around 
a central fortified position; a decisive land battle would be avoided until the 
Kami\aze planes and the Japanese fleet should destroy the American warships 
and transports. The general character of the final plan reflected the critical 
situation that faced General Ushijima with the departure of the gih Division 
for Formosa and with the fading of prospects for reinforcements. He had 
to alter his plans to fit his resources, so depleted by now that he had to 
mobilize virtually the entire civilian population of the island. 

The Japanese high command was determined to hold Okinawa and 
planned to employ the major portion of the Empire's remaining air strength as 
well as a large portion of its fleet in an attack on the American sea forces. The 
Japanese hoped to isolate and weaken the invading ground forces by destroying 
the American naval units and support shipping lying off Okinawa. To accom- 
plish this, they relied chiefly on bomb-laden planes guided to their targets by 
suicide pilots, members of the Japanese Navy's Special Attack^ Corps known as 
the Kamikaze {Divine Wind) Corps. This desperate measure was expected to 
equalize the uneven ground battle by cutting off the Americans from supplies 
and reinforcements. It would enable the jzd Army to drive the invaders into 
the sea. 

Despite the hopes of the Japanese high command, planning of the jzd 
Army for the defense of Okinawa proceeded on the assumption that it was 
impossible to defeat the enemy and that the most that could be done was to 
deny him the use of the island for as long a period as possible and inflict the 
maximum number of casualties. 9 Acting on this assumption, General Ushijima 
drew his forces together into the southern part of Okinawa and, from the strongly 
fortified positions around Shuri, prepared to make his stand there as costly to 
the enemy as possible. He would not go out to meet the invaders; he would 
wait for them to come to him, and force them to fight on his own terms. The 
jid Army artillery was instructed not to fire on the invading ships and landing 
forces, in order to avoid revealing its positions and exposing them to the devas- 
tating naval gunfire of the Americans. Units were not to oppose landings in their 
sectors until enough enemy troops had been brought ashore to render escape 
by sea impossible. The -p.d Army planned to defend only the southern third 
of Okinawa strongly. The principal defenses would be established in the rugged 
ground north of Naha, Shuri, and Yonabaru. Landings north of this line would 
not be opposed; south of it the Americans would be met on the beaches. 

9 Interrog Yahara. 



94 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Wherever the Americans landed, they would eventually come up against the 
Shuri defenses, where the main battle would be fought. 10 

The Japanese estimate of American plans was very accurate. The enemy 
expected the Americans to land across the Hagushi beaches on the west coast, 
with from six to ten divisions, and to strike out for the Yontan and Kadena 
airfields. He anticipated that American landing forces would form large beach- 
heads of 2-division strength each, hold within these perimeters until sufficient 
supplies were unloaded to permit a strong attack, and then advance behind 
massed tanks and concentrated artillery fire. The Japanese estimated that it 
would take the Americans about ten days to launch their attack against the 
main Shuri defenses. They believed that the Americans intended to draw the 
main Japanese force into the Shuri lines so that a not too costly secondary 
landing could be effected with perhaps one division on the east coast somewhere 
south of Shuri, near Minatoga. 11 

The jid Army disposed its available troops in accordance with its general 
plan of defense and its estimate of the enemy's capabilities. Only two battalions 
of the 2d Infantry U nit were left in the north to defend not only the Motobu 
Peninsula but also Ie Shima, where they destroyed the island's airfield. 12 The only 
force stationed in the area immediately behind the Hagushi beaches was the 1st 
Specially Established Regiment, Boeitai, which was ordered to fight a delaying 
action and then, after destroying the two airfields in the sector, to retreat. 13 The 
62^ Division manned the defensive belt across the island north of the Naha- 
Shuri-Yonabaru line. Its 63d Brigade was to absorb the shock of the American 
attack southward at the narrow waist of the island between Chatan and Toguchi, 
while the main line of resistance was established from Uchitomari to Tsuwa 
north of the Shuri defenses. Deployed to support the 63d, the 64th Brigade was 
dug in to fight in the successive positions around Shuri. Artillery attached to 
the 62d Division was emplaced in direct support on the west side of the line. 14 
(See Map No. VI.)| 

10 Interrog Yahara; Interrog Shimada; U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific), Naval Analysis 
Division, The Campaigns of the Pacific War, pp. 324, 325. 11 Ibid. 

12 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4; Int Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. A, General Tactical Essay, p. 
10: j2d Army Op Ord AH 111, 11 Mar 45. 

13 Tenth Army Transl No. 149, 17 Apr 45: 32d Army Ord 82, 19 Jul 44; Transl No. 237, 7 Jul 45: 
32d Army Op Ord 127, 28 Mar 45; XXIV Corps G—2 Transl, Batch No. 70, Item No. 11, 17 Apr 45: 
j2d Army Op Ord A 113, 21 Mar 45; Item No. 14: 1st Specially Established Regt Op Ord 1, 30 Mar 45. 

"Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 1, 5 Aug 45: j2d Army; Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: The 
62J Division; Transl No. 214, 3 Jul 45: $2d Army Op Ord A 98, 26 Jan 45; Transl No. 232, 6 JuJ 45: 32d 
Army Op Ord A 116, 24 Mar 45; Int Monograph, Pt. V, Special PW Interrog, p. 5; CINCPAC-CINCPOA 
Bull No. 186-45; Transl Interrog No. 37, 24 Jul 45, pp. 43-50: 63d Brigade Defense Plans, 20 Feb 45. 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



95 



Having selected the Shuri area as their main battle position, the Japanese 
with shrewdness and great industry organized the ground for a strong defense. 
The main zone of defense was planned as a series of concentric positions adapted 
to the contours of the area. Caves, emplacements, blockhouses, and pillboxes were 
built into the hills and escarpments, connected by elaborate underground tunnels 
and skillfully camouflaged; many of the burial tombs were fortified. The Jap- 
anese took full advantage of the terrain to organize defensive areas and strong 
points that were mutually supporting, and they fortified the reverse as well as 
the forward slopes of hills. Artillery and mortars were emplaced in the caves 
and thoroughly integrated into the general scheme of defensive fires. 15 

To meet the threat of landings in the south, the yid Army stationed the 
24th Division in defensive positions covering the Minatoga beaches and extend- 
ing across the southern end of the island. 16 The 44th Independent Mixed Brigade 
was moved to the Chinen Peninsula and was ordered to cooperate with the 24th 
Division in repelling any landings in the area. Artillery was registered on the 
Minatoga beaches, and some of the 320-mm. mortars were moved to this sector. 17 

During the long period of planning the Imperial General Staff and the 
32d Army were constantly concerned with fixing the probable date of the 
American invasion; each changed its view several times and on occasion they 
were not in agreement. It was during and after the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, 
and Guam, in the summer of 1944, that the Japanese first expected an immediate 
invasion of Okinawa and, accordingly, began to pour troops into the island. 
But after the invasion of the Palaus and Leyte in September and October 1944 
the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo considered it unlikely that sufficient Amer- 
ican troops would be immediately available for another major operation. 18 
During the Philippines operations at the end of 1944 the Imperial General Staff 
in Tokyo was in doubt as to whether the next blow would fall on the south 
China coast or on Formosa, 10 although the command of the ^2d Army was still 
convinced that Okinawa would be invaded and pushed forward preparations 
for its defense. 20 

16 Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. A, General Tactical Essay, pp. 4-8. 

10 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 3, 2 Aug 45: 24th Division; Transl No. 214, 3 Jul 45. 

"Tenth Army Transl Nos. 214, 238, PW Interrog Summary No. n. 

18 Interrog Yahara. 

18 1 st Demobilization Ministry Tokyo, Answers to Questions Regarding the Okinawa Operation, 22 
Dec 45. These were answers to questions submitted by the Tenth Army historian and were based on the 
memory of a staff officer in charge in Imperial Headquarters, fragmentary documents, and statements of 
participants in the operation. 

20 Tenth Army Transl No. 4, 17 Apr 45: j2d Army Ord No. 82, 19 Jul 44. 



96 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Again, at the beginning of 1945 the Imperial General StafT was uncertain 
whether the next American attack would be against Formosa or Okinawa. By 
the end of February, as a result of the invasion of Iwo Jima, which pointed to 
the American strategy of cutting oiT the Japanese home islands from the main- 
land and the Indies, the Japanese concluded that Formosa would be bypassed 
and that Okinawa would be the next target. 21 Their aerial reconnaissance and 
intelligence reports revealed an increase in west-bound American shipping to 
the Philippines and the Marianas during the latter part of February — an increase 
that swelled to large proportions early in March; this seemed a clear indication 
of the imminence of another American operation. 22 When the invasion fleet 
appeared off Iwo Jima, it was considered by some to be a feint for the invasion 
of Okinawa. 23 With the Iwo Jima battle in progress and submarine activity 
increasing around the Ryukyus, it was taken for granted that the invasion of 
Okinawa would soon follow, on or about 1 April 1945. 24 

As one of the last steps in preparing for the expected struggle, the Japanese 
command on Okinawa on 21 March ordered all air, shipping, and rear-echelon 
units to "prepare for ground combat." On 27 March, the day after the American 
invasion of the Keramas, jid Army advised its units that "the enemy is planning 
to land his main strength tomorrow, the 28th, on the western coast of southern 
Okinawa, in particular in the Yontan-Kadena sector." 25 When the American 
forces invaded Okinawa, a few days later than had been predicted, the 32^ Army 
adhered strictly to its plan of offering little resistance until the invaders should 
come up against their outposts at the Shuri line. The Japanese Combined Fleet 
Commander, meanwhile, prepared to execute his plan, delayed by Task Force 
58 's foray into the Inland Sea in March, to destroy the American fleet by air and 
surface action. Before many days had passed, the enemy was to react to the 
invasion with a fury never before encountered. 

Enemy Counterattacks by Air and Sea 

The American command was aware of the likelihood of formidable attacks 
by both air and sea on the assault forces. Okinawa was close to the Japanese home- 

21 Answers to Questions Regarding the Okinawa Operation. 

23 Ibid.; Tenth Army Transl No. 1 68, 20 Jun 45: 32c! Army Op Ord A 106, 15 Feb 45; PW Interrog 
Rpt No. 23. 

23 Interrog Yahara; XXIV Corps G-2 PW Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45. 

24 Answers Regarding the Okinawa Operation; Tenth Army PW Interrog Rpt No. 16, 14 Jun 45. 
^XXIV Corps G-2 Transl Batch No. 70, Item No. 11, 17 Apr 45, j2d Army Op Ord A 113, 21 Mar 

45; Tenth Army Transl No. 310, 11 Jul 45, ^zd Army Op Ord A 114, 27 Mar 45. 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



97 



land, where the remaining strength of the enemy's naval and air forces was con- 
centrated. To meet the expected air offensive from the near-by fields of Kyushu. 
Shanghai, and Formosa, the Americans relied upon Task Force 58, the Tenth 
Army's Tactical Air Force, the guns of the fleet and supply ships, the British 
task force, and land-based antiaircraft artillery. To ensure early warning of 
Japanese raids, the Navy established around Okinawa a ring of picket stations, 
manned by destroyers and destroyer-type vessels, to which gunboats (LCS) and 
later LSM(R) types were added to give increased fire power. These stations were 
all less than 100 miles from Zampa Point, the peninsula just north of the Marine 
beaches; some were only a few miles off the coasts of the island. Combat air 
patrols were maintained day and night over the picket stations, which could also 
call for aid from the routine combat air patrol of from 48 to 120 planes aloft 
during the daytime, orbiting in depth in a circle around Okinawa. Task Force 
58, deployed just to the east of Okinawa, with its own picket group of from 6 to 8 
destroyers, kept 13 carriers (7 CV and 6 CVL) on duty from 23 March to 27 
April and a smaller number thereafter. Until 27 April from 14 to 18 converted 
carriers (CVE's) were in the area at all times, and until 20 April British Task 
Force 57, with 4 large and 6 converted carriers, remained off the Sakishima 
Islands to protect the southern flank. Two Marine Fighter Groups were installed 
and operating at Yontan and Kadena airfields by 9 April, and other Marine and 
Army Air Groups were added later. All assault antiaircraft artillery of the XXIV 
Corps was ashore by the night of 4 April, and that of III Amphibious Corps by 
12 April. Japanese airmen were to find these combined defenses formidable. 29 

Enemy air opposition had been relatively light during the first few days 
after the landings. On 6 April the expected air reaction materialized with a 
fierce attack of 400 planes which had flown down from Kyushu to drive the 
invaders from Okinawa. The raids ' began at dawn, and by noon Task Force 
58 had shot down seven possible suicide planes. Throughout the afternoon the 
battle increased in intensity. Patrol and picket ships, which throughout the 
operation proved an irresistible attraction to enemy planes, were a favorite 
target. Japanese planes also appeared from time to time over the Hagushi 
beaches and transport area and were taken under fire by the ship and shore 

M CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 47, 51, 52, and Plates VII, XIX; CTF 58 Actn 
Rpt, Incl H; CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II— 1 7, 18, 19. For operational dates of Yontan and Kadena airfields, see 
Tactical Air Force (TAF) Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 5-0-2; interv 1st I & H Hist Off with Lt Col Eugene H. 
Hawkins, Tactical Air Force, 13 Apr 45; see, however, Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-X-4, 5, and TAF Actn 
Rpt, 6— III — 1, which give operational dates as 7 and 10 April respectively. 




KAMIKAZE ATTACKS resulted in many hits, more near misses. U. S. S. Sangamon 
(above) was just missed but was hit in a later attack^. Another near miss (below) sent U. S. 
battleship Missouri's gunners scurrying from upper turret while those in Turret 9 looked to 
see what was going on. 




WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



99 



batteries. On such occasions the raider, ringed with bright streams of tracer 
bullets from automatic weapons, would streak across a sky filled with black 
puffs of smoke from hundreds of bursting shells, and in the course of seconds 
would plunge into the sea in a geyser of water and smoke, or crash into a 
ship with an even greater explosion of smoke and flame. Directed against such 
raiders, friendly fire killed four Americans and wounded thirty-four others in 
the XXIV Corps zone, ignited an ammunition dump near Kadena, destroyed 
an oil barge, and in the late afternoon shot down two American planes over 
the beaches. Some ships also suffered damage and casualties from friendly fire. 
Twenty-two of twenty-four suicide crashes were successful, sinking two destroy- 
ers, a mine sweeper, two ammunition ships, and an LST. A ship rescuing sur- 
vivors from the lost LST was itself struck by a suicide plane soon after but was 
not seriously damaged. The attack cost the Japanese about 300 planes ; 65 were 
splashed by fliers from the Essex alone. Unloading continued on the Hagushi 
beaches almost without pause, and the American fleet, although it had taken 
severe blows, was still intact. 27 

On the night of 6-7 April the Japanese fleet came out for the planned surface 
attack on the American sea forces. An American submarine lying off Kyushu 
reported the movement of the Japanese warships, and forty planes of Task Force 
58 began a far-flung search at dawn on 7 April. At 0822 a plane from the Essex 
sighted the enemy force, which consisted of the battleship Yamato, the light 
cruiser Yahagi, and eight destroyers, in the East China Sea on a course toward 
Okinawa. Task Force 58, which had started northeastward at 0400 that morning 
in order to close with the enemy, launched its planes at a point estimated to be 
240 miles from the enemy fleet. The first attacks through heavy but inaccurate 
antiaircraft fire scored at least eight torpedo and five bomb hits on the Yamato, 
the Yahagi, and three of the destroyers. Subsequent attacks succeeded in sinking 
the Yamato, the Yahagi, and four destroyers; one destroyer was seriously dam- 
aged and one left burning. Task Force 58 lost only 10 planes out of the 386 that 
participated. Okinawa was now safe from surface attack. 28 

While the strike on the Yamato was in progress, Task Force 58 was busy 
warding off enemy air attacks and in the course of the day shot down fifty-four 
planes. A suicide plane dropped its bomb from a height of fifty feet onto the Han- 
cocks flight deck, then itself plowed through a group of planes aft. Although 

27 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 50, 52; CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II-18 and III-20, 21, 
22; CTF 58 Actn Rpt, I-7, 8; personal obsn Lt Col John Stevens, 6 Apr 45. 

28 CTF 58 Actn Rpt, 1-8, 9. 




SINKING OF THE YAMATO, last of Japan's super-battleships, was accomplished by Tas\ 
Force 5S before the Yamato had ever fired her main batteries in World War II. With her 
escorts near by, she went up in a blast of smoke and flame. 



WHERE IS THE ENEMY? 



101 



seriously damaged, the carrier landed her own planes when they returned at 
1630. British Task Force 57 was able to keep the airfields of Sakishima largely 
inoperative during the Japanese air and sea offensive of 6-7 April. 29 

The enemy continued during April to deliver periodic heavy air attacks. 
Daytime raids were generally staged against Task Force 58, the picket ships, 
and shipping beyond the range of land-based antiaircraft artillery. At night, 
when the supply ships shrouded themselves in artificial fog as raiders approached, 
the enemy usually struck Yontan and Kadena airfields, with the Hagushi 
beaches a secondary target. Most of these raids were made between 2100 and 
2300, and 0200 and 0400. The Japanese, clever at deception, sometimes shelled 
one of the airfields with their artillery, leading the Americans to expect an attack 
at that point, and then followed with an air raid on the other field. On occasion 
enemy planes would follow American planes in at dusk, circle the fields with 
their lights on, and then bomb and strafe the runways and storage areas. 30 

Task Force 58 was heavily engaged on 1 1 April, and near misses by four sui- 
cide planes sent the carrier Enterprise to Ulithi for repairs. On the next day the 
main weight of the attack shifted to the picket ships and the Hagushi anchorage. 
Seventeen Allied ships were hit and two sunk. The destroyer M. L. Abele was 
sent to the bottom when hit by both a suicide plane and a Baka bomb; the latter 
was a potentially dangerous but not often successful piloted, rocket-driven pro- 
jectile launched by a twin-engined bomber. Again on 15-16 April, despite strikes 
by Task Force 58 against Kyushu airfields, Japanese airplanes appeared in 
strength at Okinawa. On the 16th a Kamikaze plane crashed the Intrepid' s flight 
deck, and other suicide planes damaged 10 ships and sank a destroyer; 270 enemy 
planes were shot from the air and many more destroyed on the ground. Eventful 
days, too, were 22, 27, and 28 April. On the last of these, starting at 1400, a force 
of 200 Japanese planes attacked Okinawa in 44 raids. Several American ships were 
damaged, but 118 of the attacking planes were destroyed. The hospital ship 
Comfort, although following hospital procedure, was crashed by a suicide plane 
50 miles south of Okinawa. The Comfort's casualty list was 63, of whom 29 were 
killed and 1 missing. 31 

American planes too had struck hard. During the month the XXI Bomber 
Command had hit Japan with 15,712 tons of bombs; 36 percent of the tonnage 

29 Ibid., pp. 9, 10; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 63, 68. 

30 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, n-VI-21 and 11-X-8, 12, 13; interv 1st I & H Off with Brig Gen Chas. S. 
Harris, Tenth Army AAA Off, 11 Jul 45. 

81 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II— 16, 17, 18, and III— 67, 68, 69; CTF 58 Actn Rpt, I-12, 13. 



102 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



had been dropped on Kyushu airfields in support of the Okinawa operation, 
29 percent on the Japanese aircraft industry, and 34 percent on other Japanese 
urban industrial areas. Formosa was being struck from the Philippines. 

During the period 26 March-30 April, 20 American ships were sunk and 157 
damaged by enemy action. Suicide attacks accounted for the sinking of 14 
ships and the damaging of 90, while other air attacks damaged 47 ships and 
sank 1. Two of the largest carriers — the Hancoc\ and the Enterprise — one CVL, 
the San Jacinto, and the British carrier Intrepid sustained serious damage from 
suicide planes. Picket ships suffered especially heavy attrition, and as quickly 
as land-based radar could be installed on Okinawa and neighboring islands 
the number of picket stations was reduced. Five picket stations remained after 
completion of radar installations at Hedo Point on 21 April and in Ie Shima 
on 23 April. Although the seizure of the Kerama Islands had substantially 
reduced this threat, suicide boats continued to be active on a small scale, particu- 
larly in the Naha and Yonabaru areas at night. Up to 30 April suicide boats 
sank one ship and damaged six. Navy casualties were heavy ; during April they 
totaled 956 killed, 2,650 wounded, and 897 missing in action. 32 

For their part, the Japanese had lost up to 30 April more than 1,100 planes 
in the battle to Allied naval forces alone, and many more to land-based anti- 
aircraft artillery and planes of the Tactical Air Force. Not only had the task 
force led by the Yamato been defeated and for the most part sunk, but a 
considerable number of other Japanese combatant and auxiliary vessels had also 
been sunk or damaged. 

More important, the Japanese plan to destroy or drive off the fleet and 
isolate the troops, thus winning the battle for Okinawa, had been frustrated. 
Instead, the Japanese on the island were completely cut off and isolated from their 
near-by homeland. The invading warships and transports remained and, despite 
the weight of the blows delivered against them, continued to pour supplies 
into Okinawa and to keep the lanes open for fresh supplies from the other side 
of the Pacific Ocean. Thus American ground troops could work their way 
inland with the assurance of an unbroken supply line. 33 

32 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 50, 66, 70-76; CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II— 15, 16, 17. 
83 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, pp. 1, 2, 5, 6, 17, 50. 



CHAPTER V 

Coming to Grips With the Enemy 



American intelligence, handicapped as it was by various circumstances, 
had not succeeded in ascertaining all the salient facts regarding the enemy's 
forces and his plans. It had underestimated substantially the number of Japanese 
soldiers on Okinawa, largely through not taking into account the possibility of 
conscripting Okinawan natives. It had also not foreseen the great concentration 
of Japanese troops in the Shuri defense line or suspected its array of formidable 
defenses ; these had not been indicated by the aerial photographs because most of 
the Shuri area had been cloud-covered during the photographic missions. But 
in the course of the fighting between 4 and 14 April the real nature of the Jap- 
anese defense on Okinawa was to become clear. In particular the 96th Division, 
grappling during 9-12 April with one of the strongest enemy positions in Oki- 
nawa, was to experience the full potency of the carefully prepared Japanese 
defensive plan. 

For General Ushijima and his staff, this was still a time of watchful waiting 
as they were not certain that the pattern of the American attack was yet fully 
revealed. A new landing in the Machinato-Oyama area was considered possible. 
A Japanese field order of 4 April noted that "the tempo of enemy operations in 
the Minatoga area is increasing," and that vigilance was necessary against land- 
ings in this sector. Above all, the Japanese were concerned over the possibility of 
American operations in the Yonabaru area — either a new landing covered by 
American warships already operating in Buckner Bay or, more likely, a vigorous 
drive down the eastern flatlands by ground troops heavily supported by tanks 
and naval guns. 1 Because of these American capabilities, General Ushijima con- 
tinued to follow his basic plan of centering his main forces in and around the 
Shuri defenses, leaving outposts to slow up the American attack. 

The Japanese braced themselves for the shock of battle as XXIV Corps, after 
cutting the island in two, turned south on 3 April for the drive toward Shuri. 
"Do your utmost," the enemy troops were told; "the victory of the century lies 



1 Tenth Army Transl No. 182, 23 Jun 45; No. 199, 1 Jul 45; No. 264, 12 jui 45. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



in this battle." 2 Orders went out to hold ground "regardless of whether the 
communications are severed or any other unfavorable conditions." 3 

Through the Outposts, 4-8 April 

General Hodge ordered both his divisions to continue the attack southward 
on 4 April — the 7th on the east and the 96th on the west. The Corps' objective 
was the hill mass extending from Urasoe-Mura to Hill 178 and Ouki. This was 
a larger assignment than anyone realized at the time, and much blood was to be 
shed before it could be carried out. The objective was not to be gained for three 
weeks, and then only partially. 
XXI V Corps Drives South, 4-5 April 

The 96th Division made sweeping gains on 4 April. Its advance carried it 
through much of the outpost area immediately north of the Uchitomari-Tsuwa 
line. In the center of the island, troops of the 382d Infantry advanced more than 
two miles south from Nodake along the division's east boundary. On the west 
coast, the 96th's right-flank units swept along the flatlands from Isa to Uchito- 
mari. Progress was only a little slower in the division's center along Route 5. 
Enemy resistance, which included artillery fire from the area to the south, 
varied from sniper fire to intense machine-gun and mortar fire directed out of 
scattered Japanese strong points. Rapid maneuver by infantry units supported by 
tanks reduced the enemy positions. Risks were taken for the sake of rapid 
advance, with the result that adjacent units often lost contact with one another, 
and advance elements occasionally were cut off by fire from supporting units. 4 

The deepest penetration of the Japanese area was on the west, where the 
3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, preceded by elements of the 96th Reconnaissance 
Troop, drove rapidly from Isa to Uchitomari during the morning of 4 April. 
Between Mashiki and Uchitomari the troops ran into heavy fire from the south 
and from the ridges on their left (east). Three medium tanks from the 763d 
Tank Battalion ran afoul of a carefully sited and well-concealed 47-mm. anti- 
tank gun. Firing twenty rounds, Japanese gunners set the three tanks afire. 
The enemy later described this feat as an illustration of the effectiveness of 
47-mm. guns. "Great results," Japanese combat instructions stated, "can be 

2 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. io, 1 1 Apr 45. 

3 Ibid. 

4 The account of operations of the 96th Division is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pts- 
I and II, and 96th Div G-2 and G— 3 Periodic Rpts for the period 4-14 Apr 45. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



obtained by concealing the guns and opening surprise fire on the tanks at close 
range." 5 As a result of continuing Japanese fire in the rough ground east of 
Mashiki and Oyama, the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, pulled back under smoke 



to Mashiki, where the troops dug in under artillery fire. (See Map No. VII.) 

For the 96th Division, 5 April marked the beginning of iron resistance on 
Okinawa. The 383d estimated at one time during the day that its forward 
elements were receiving fire from 20 machine guns and from 15 to 20 mortars, 
besides artillery pieces. Driving through the green, rolling country east of the 
Ginowan road, the 382d unmasked a series of fortified positions, many of them 
protected by mine fields. Each position caused American casualties and required 
enveloping movements. Well-camouflaged Japanese troops, supported by tanks, 
attacked the 1st Battalion during the afternoon, but the attack was broken 
up by artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire. During the day, the 382d gained 
about 400 yards on the left (east) and 900 yards on the right. 

The 383d on the west made little progress on 5 April. Its efforts centered 
on Cactus Ridge, 600 yards southeast of Mashiki, which commanded much 
of the ground between Uchitomari and Oyama. An infantry company supported 
by tanks made a direct assault on Cactus Ridge under heavy fire. The ridge 
was protected by a tank ditch, barbed wire, and a long mine field. When 
American tanks tried to pass through a gap in the mine field, they came under 
47-mm. fire. Two were hit and had to be abandoned. The infantry soon came 
to a halt under almost continuous machine-gun, rifle, and mortar fire, and 
were forced to withdraw. 

By the evening of 5 April the 7th Division had pulled up almost abreast of the 
96th. The 7th had fallen about two miles behind on the preceding day, when 
its center elements encountered a high, wooded ridge paralleling the coast line 
just west of Kuba and defended by a group of Japanese estimated as of company 
strength. On this ridge a great castle had been built in the sixteenth century by 
a feudal lord who chose the commanding height as a vantage point from which 
he could observe movement through this narrow part of the island. Now there 
remained only attractive green terraces encased on several levels within massive 
stone walls intricately pieced together by Okinawans of a former day, 10,000 
of whom labored for ten years to build this castle for their lord. 6 

7th Div G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 10, 1 1 Apr 45: j2d Army Combat Instructions, 5 Apr 45. 

"The account of operations of the 7th Division is based on Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 36—57; Tenth 
Army Int Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. C, Ch II : Japanese Defense of the Pinnacle (prepared in part by Lt 
Gugeler) ; 7th Div G-2 and G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period 4-14 Apr 45. 




XXIV CORPS TURNS SOUTH on 4 April and meets greater opposition. Antitank^ 
gunners of the 383d Infantry, 96th Division, fire at Japanese positions in the Mashifyi area, 
the approaches to Cactus Ridge. About the same time, on the Ginowan road, men and 
armor of the ^8zd Infantry, 96th Division (below), move through a wooded area, alert for 
concealed enemy positions. 




COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



Whatever its strength in feudal times, the castle was good now only for 
one day's defense by the Japanese. On the morning of 5 April, the 7th Division 
found that the heights had been deserted before daylight. The division regis- 
tered long advances during the day. The 32d Infantry moved more than two 
miles along the coast to a point east of Ukuma. The 184th advanced through 
Arakachi, and then was brought to a standstill by heavy and accurate fire from 
a rocky pinnacle located about 1,000 yards southwest of Arakachi. Company B, 
184th Infantry, assaulted the hill on the 5th but was driven back. The reduction 
of this position — called the Pinnacle after a thin coral spike that rose 30 feet above 
the 450-foot ridge and served as a watchtower for the Japanese — was to be the 
main task of the 7th Division on the following day. 
The Pinnacle: Capture of an Outpost 

It was probably on this very hill that a party of Americans from Commodore 
Perry's expedition in 1853 raised the American flag "with hearty cheers" while 
exploring the island. 7 The Japanese had selected the Pinnacle as an important 
outpost position because it dominated the adjoining ground and afforded excel- 
lent observation in all directions. Holding the Pinnacle was 1st Lt. Seiji 
Tanigawa's 1st Company, 14th Independent Infantry Battalion, composed of 
company headquarters and two rifle platoons, a total of no men. The third 
platoon was a mile to the rear in battalion reserve. 

Lieutenant Tanigawa had built his defenses around eight light and two 
heavy machine guns sited at the base of the hill. In trenches and pits riflemen 
well-supplied with grenades covered the dead spaces in front of the machine 
guns. The defenses were connected by the usual tunnels and trenches, affording 
underground mobility. On the top of the ridge were four 50-mm. mortars, and 
on the reverse slope to the south were three more. Artillery check points had 
been established for 62d Division field pieces to the south. Barbed wire and mine 
fields protected the major approaches. Lieutenant Tanigawa could hardly have 
hoped to stop the Americans, but undoubtedly he expected to make the price 



of victory high. (See Map No. VIII.) 



After a 10-minute artillery preparation on the morning of 6 April, Com- 
pany B, 184th Infantry, made a frontal assault on the Pinnacle, supported on the 
right (west) by Company C. Two platoons climbed almost to the top of the 
ridge, but when they started dropping grenades into caves and underground 
positions they stirred up a hornet's nest. The Japanese fought back with grenades, 

7 See Francis L. Hawks, Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan (Wash- 
ington, 1856), pp. 167-69. 



io8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



satchel charges, and mortars. The troops held on for fifteen minutes, until mount- 
ing casualties forced a withdrawal. An hour later another infantry assault was 
attempted, supported by 105-mm. artillery, light tank fire, antitank guns, heavy 
machine guns, 60-mm. and 81-mm. mortars, 4.2-inch chemical mortars, and 
bazookas; but the attack was again stopped by Japanese who hid underground 
during the heavy fire and then rushed back to their firing positions to meet the 
oncoming Americans. 

For the third attack of the morning, Lt. Col. Daniel G. Maybury, command- 
ing the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, decided to push Company C up a draw 
just beyond the ridge used by Company B, but the latter was still expected to 
seize the peak. Company B moved up the ridge quickly to catch the enemy out 
of his holes, but again the troops were driven back. Company C was now work- 
ing its way up the western approaches along a difficult but partially covered 
route. Lieutenant Tanigawa had directed the repulse of Company B from the 
Pinnacle watchtower but he did not know of Company C's approach on his 
flank. Colonel Maybury directed supporting fire in front of Company C, which 
quickly moved to the top without losing a man. It then proceeded leisurely and 
methodically to destroy the remaining Japanese with white phosphorus grenades 
and flame throwers. Only 20 of the no defenders escaped to the south. With the 
Pinnacle reduced, the entire 7th Division line could move forward. 

The Pinnacle had been a tough position to crack, yet it was only an outpost. 
The Pinnacle was undermanned, and no reinforcements were provided. During 
the action Lieutenant Tanigawa pleaded with his superiors for artillery support, 
but he was provided with neither the artillery nor an explanation of the refusal. 
By 6-7 April the XXIV Corps had unmasked the Shuri fortified zone, composed 
of many positions as fanatically defended as Pinnacle outpost and also heavily 
supported by artillery and fed by an almost endless stream of reinforcements 
from local reserve units. 
XXIV Corps Halted on the West, 6-8 April 

Assault units of the XXIV Corps had by 6 April penetrated the outposts 
held by the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion and were in contact with two 
other battalions of the 63d Brigade of the 62d Division. In general, the 13th 
Independent Infantry Battalion faced the 96th Division; the 14th opposed the 
7th Division ; and remnants of the 12th, which had suffered heavily in its outpost 
actions to the north, straddled the division boundary in the center of the island. 
The Japanese Independent Infantry Battalion was well adapted for outpost 
action. Each of its five rifle companies was equipped with nine light machine 




EAST COAST BATTLES of the 184th Infantry, yth Division, in early April centered about 
the hill called the Pinnacle. Its western approaches, over which Company C moved to 
capture it, are shown above. At high point on right is watchtower. From the Pinnacle the 
2d Battalion, 184th, attached toward Tomb Hill along the finger ridge shown in the center 
of the picture below. A white phosphorus shell had just burst on the hill beyond. 




no 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



guns and nine grenade dischargers; the machine gun company operated ten 
heavy machine guns; and the infantry gun company was furnished with two 
75-mm. regimental guns and two 70-mm. howitzers. Each of the three battalions 
had originally a strength of about 900, but Okinawan conscripts and Boeitai 
swelled the total to approximately i,200. 8 

On 6 April the strong enemy positions on Cactus Ridge continued to hold 
up the Corps' west flank. An air strike early in the morning put bombs squarely 
on the ridge, but the assaulting troops of the 96th Division found enemy fire as 
intense as ever. The 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, made frontal assaults through 
intense mortar fire to gain the ridge. "We figured," S/Sgt. Francis M. Rail 
later wrote, "that the way to get out of that knee mortar fire was to get to 
where it was coming from. So we stood up in waves, firing everything we had 
and throwing hand grenades by the dozen, and charged the Jap position." 9 By 
such tactics the 2d Battalion gained the western half of Cactus. On the next day, 
7 April, more American "banzai charges" won the rest of the ridge. 

The capture of Cactus Ridge brought the 383d Infantry up against the 
formidable Japanese positions in the Kakazu area. On 7 and 8 April the regiment 
pushed down toward Kakazu Ridge, supported by planes, light and medium 
artillery, and naval gunfire from the battleship New Yort{. Col. E. T. May, 
commanding the 383d, at this time had no conception of the enemy's strength 
on Kakazu. Small-scale attacks along the approaches to Kakazu by the 1st 
Battalion on 7 and 8 April failed with heavy losses. Spigot mortar fire was met on 
the 8th for the first time. The 320-mm. shells had little fragmentation effect but 
a terrific concussion and dug craters fifteen feet across and eight feet deep. 
The spigot mortar shells were dubbed "flying box cars" by the American 
troops, who claimed that they were able to see the huge missiles in time to 
run to safety. 

From 6 to 8 April the 382d Infantry advanced slowly east of the Ginowan 
road. The enemy fought stubbornly from hilly ground north and west of Kaniku 
and delivered heavy fire from his strong positions on Tombstone Ridge, just 
south of Kaniku, and from Nishibaru Ridge, southwest of Tombstone. Quanti- 
ties of rifle, machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire were poured on the troops as 
they moved south. Savage hand-to-hand encounters marked the slow progress 
of the regiment, which suffered numerous casualties. By night of 8 April the 

8 Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt I, Sec B : Japanese Order of Battle, p. 9 ; XXI V Corps G— 2 Summary 
No. 4, 12 Apr 45; XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45. 

9 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt II, pp. 25-26. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



III 



regiment was strung out on a wide front just north of Kaniku and Tombstone 
Ridge. Heavy fire from the front, from the Kakazu area on the right (west), and 
from its exposed left (east) flank, where the 184th was slowed By strong 
opposition, had brought the 3826 virtually to a dead stop. 
XXIV Corps Halted on the East, 7-9 April 

After the fall of the Pinnacle, the 184th Infantry continued to move south- 
ward over broken eroded ground on its right (west) and rocky finger ridges 
on the left. On the flatlands along the coast the 32d Infantry advanced with 
little difficulty, keeping contact with the 184th. Only when forward elements 
of the 32d tried to push out ahead of the 184th in force did its assault units 
encounter aggressive Japanese opposition, in the form of heavy fire from the 
heights on the right. Thus the rate of advance of the 184th governed that of 
the XXIV Corps' left. By 7 April it was clear to the 7th Division commander, 
studying the ground ahead from his observation post on the Pinnacle, that the 
184th was now meeting the main Japanese defenses. 

The fighting in the 7th Division's sector on 7 April centered on a low, bare 
hill 1,000 yards west of the town of Minami-Uebaru, called Red Hill because 
of its color. The enemy had made a fortress of the hill by constructing his usual 
system of caves and connecting trenches. A frontal assault on Red Hill by troops 
of the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, failed in the face of machine-gun and mortar 
fire. In a second attempt, three platoons of tanks supported the attack. Ten 
medium and five light tanks advanced through a cut toward Red Hill; two 
tanks were blown up by mines and one was satchel-charged as the column moved 
toward the hill and up the sides. Intense enemy artillery and machine-gun fire 
drove the infantry back and disabled more tanks. Japanese swarmed in among 
the armor and tried to destroy the tanks with satchel charges and flaming rags. 
Two medium tanks held off the attackers, the defending crews resorting to hand 
grenades, while the rest of the operative tanks withdrew. 10 

The 14th Independent Infantry Battalion headquarters proudly described 
this action as a perfect example of how to separate troops from tanks and thus 
break up the American infantry-tank team. The enemy dispatch stated: "The 
above method of isolating the troops from the tanks with surprise fire followed 
by close combat tactics is an example in the complete destruction of enemy tanks 
and will be a great factor in deciding the victories of tank warfare." 11 

10 See 711th Tank Bn (7th Div) Actn Rpt, pp. 7-9. 
" Incl to 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 10, 11 Apr 45. 



112 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



After these two reversals the 3d Battalion, 184th, made a wide enveloping 
maneuver to the right. Behind fire from artillery and supporting weapons, the 
troops drove toward Red Hill from the west and occupied it, suffering only two 
casualties in the move. Once more a Japanese outpost had shown its strength 
against a frontal attack and its vulnerability to a flanking maneuver. The capture 
of Red Hill left another sector of enemy territory open for the taking. The troops 
advanced 100 yards south before digging in. A platoon of tanks conducted a 
remarkable 4,000-yard foray almost to Hill 178 and withdrew safely, despite a 
bombing attack by two single-engined Japanese planes. 

The 184th continued to make the main effort on the Corps' east flank during 
the next two days, 8 and 9 April. Two formidable enemy positions built around 
strong points lay between Red Hill and Hill 178 — Tomb Hill, 1,000 yards 
northwest of Ouki, and Triangulation Hill, 1,000 yards northwest of Tomb 
Hill. Enemy artillery fire was the heaviest yet encountered by the 7th Division. 
Tank-infantry teams were the special target of the Japanese shells. The heavy 
enemy fire drove off infantry and demolished tanks; then the attacking Japanese 
satchel-charged the exposed tanks and bayoneted crews when they tried to escape. 
The enemy reoccupied abandoned tanks and converted them into pillboxes. 

Triangulation Hill fell on 8 April after two bloody assaults. Tomb Hill, so 
named after the numerous burial vaults along its sides, held out until the 9th, 
when infantry and tanks, closely supported by artillery and planes, managed 
to seize and hang onto the crest of the hill. Its capture enabled the 326. to seize 
finger ridges east of Tomb Hill that dominated the approaches to Ouki. 
Japanese clung tenaciously to the reverse slope of Tomb Hill, and direct enemy 
observation from Hill 178, now only 1,500 yards to the southwest, hindered the 
efforts to clean out the area south of Tomb Hill. 

An ambitious flanking maneuver around the Japanese right (east) was 
tried on the 10th, but it was a dismal failure. The 7th Division had come up 
against the hard rim of the Shuri fortified zone, and maneuver was impossible. 
The 7th now paused, while the XXIV Corps made its main effort in the 
Kakazu area. 

The Japanese outpost units had done their work well. They had held the 
XXIV Corps off from the Shuri fortified zone for eight days. For its work 
during this and later periods, the 14th Independent Infantry Battalion was 
cited by Lt. Gen. Takeo Fujioka, commander of the 62d Division, who stated: 
"Burning with the determination to annihilate the enemy, the soldiers carried 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



out counterattacks, followed by close combat, and crushed the continuously rein- 
forced enemy who was attacking with fierce artillery and bombardment." 12 By 
the night of 8 April, XXIV Corps had suffered 1,510 battle casualties and had 
accounted for 4,489 Japanese killed and 13 captured. 13 The 96th had taken the 
bulk of the American casualties and was about to suffer further serious losses 
in abortive attempts to reduce the Kakazu positions. 

Assaulting the Shuri Defenses, 9-/2 April 

On 8 April Colonel May ordered the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 383d 
Infantry to seize the Kakazu hill mass the next day, and on the morning of 
9 April th e two battalions were drawn up in position for the attack. (See Map 
No. IX.) I 

The Japanese-held area in front of the 383d Infantry offered the enemy an 
ideal combination of defensive features. A deep moat, a hill studded with natural 
and man-made positions, a cluster of thick-walled buildings behind the hill — 
these were the basic elements of Kakazu stronghold. The enemy had exploited 
each one of them. Moreover, Kakazu, unlike such outposts as the Pinnacle, was 
an integral element of the Shuri fortified zone and a vital rampart that could 
expect reinforcements and heavy fire support from within the ring of positions 
that surrounded the yid Army headquarters, only 4,000 yards to the south. 

The 1st and 3d Battalions were drawn up on the high ground several hun- 
dred yards northeast of the main hill of Kakazu. Between the Americans and 
Kakazu lay a deep gorge, half hidden by trees and brush, which could be crossed 
only with difficulty. The Kakazu hill mass itself, on the other side of this gorge, 
stretched northwest-southeast for 1,000 yards, sloping on the west toward the 
coastal flat and ending on the east at Highway 5. Kakazu was made up of two 
hills connected by a saddle. On the east was the larger of the two hills, about 500 
yards long and topped by a fairly level strip of land averaging 25 yards in width ; 
it came to be known to the American troops as Kakazu Ridge. At the western 
end of this ridge was a north-south saddle, sloping gently up toward the south. 
This saddle was dotted with tombs, as were the sides of Kakazu Ridge. West of 
the saddle was another portion of the Kakazu hill mass, forming the head of a T 
in relation to Kakazu Ridge, and stretching north-south for about 250 yards. 
This hill was later called "Crocker's Hill" by the 27th Division, but to the 96th 

12 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 62, 1 Jun 45. 

13 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 9, 9 Apr 45. 



KAKAZU WEST and the west end of Ka\azu Ridge, viewed from high ground north of 
the gorge. Tombs used by the ist Battalion, 381st Infantry, 96th Division, and a Japanese 
cave position can be seen. Below are caves along north slope of Ka\azu West used by the 
2d Battalion, 381st, while entrenched on the reverse slope of the \nob. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



it came to be known as "Kakazu West." On the northern slope of Kakazu West 
the ground fell away sharply in a steep cliff pockmarked with caves; on the east 
it was steep but not precipitous. 

Kakazu was not formidable in appearance. It was not high, nor jagged, nor 
especially abrupt. Kakazu was overshadowed by the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, 
500 yards to the south, which, from the position of the American forces, seemed 
like a towering, insurmountable cliff, preventing passage beyond. Compared 
to Urasoe-Mura, Kakazu was simply an ugly, squat hill, originally covered with 
vegetation but soon left only with bare tree trunks standing gaunt against the 
skyline. Just below Kakazu Ridge on the southeast was the town of Kakazu, a 
compact group of tile-roofed structures, each surrounded by hedges and stone 
walls and somewhat in defilade to the adjoining open fields. 

In and around the Kakazu hills the Japanese had created one of their 
strongest positions on Okinawa. Mortars dug in on the reverse slope were 
zeroed-in on the gorge and on vulnerable areas between the gorge and the crest 
of Kakazu. Several spigot mortars also protected the hill. In an intricate system 
of coordinated pillboxes, tunnels, and caves Japanese machine guns were sited 
to cover all avenues of approach. The enemy was also supported by many 
artillery pieces within the Shuri fortified zone. The heavy walls and the hedges 
of the town of Kakazu — and eventually its rubble — afforded the Japanese count- 
less defensive positions. 

The 1st Battalion of the 383d, commanded by Lt. Col. Byron F. King, was 
to capture Kakazu Ridge; the 3d Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Edward 
W. Stare, was to take Kakazu West. 14 The companies were to attack before dawn 
without an artillery preparation in order to surprise the enemy. The men had 
only a vague conception of the ground over which they were to attack. The air 
photographs and maps were inaccurate or lacking in detail. From the jump-off 
position the gorge between the men and Kakazu was not visible. 
Rifle Companies Storm Kakazu 

The predawn darkness hid the movement of the troops as they moved out. 
From east to west the companies were C and A of the 1st Battalion and L and 
I of the 3d Battalion. Companies C and A crossed the gorge, picked their way 
up the slopes of Kakazu Ridge, and were on the top by dawn without being 
discovered. Company L's forward elements killed several Japanese on the way 
up Kakazu West without arousing the bulk of the defenders. Company I on 

14 383d In£ (96th Div) FO No. 21, 8 Apr 45. 



n6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the far west was delayed in its jump-ofl and by daylight was in open ground 
150 yards south of Uchitomari. 

Shortly after 0600 the enemy was alerted. A lone Japanese in a pillbox 
spotted Company A and opened fire. Almost immediately a terrific hail of 
mortar fire fell along the entire front, punctuated by staccato bursts from 
machine guns. The Americans were in poor positions. Most of Companies A and 
C were on the ridge, but they had separated in the approach and had not yet 
regained contact. Likewise there was no contact between Company A and 
Company L, which was part way up Kakazu West. Company L at first escaped 
most of the fire, which blanketed the gorge after L had crossed it, but the 
same fire cut off Company I in the open ground to the west and thus left L 
isolated on Kakazu West. 

While the men of Companies A and C huddled in holes on the crest and 
forward (northeast) slopes of Kakazu Ridge to escape the murderous fire, 
Company L made a dash to gain the top of Kakazu West. In the face of machine- 
gun fire 1 st Lt. Willard F. Mitchell, commander of Company L, a stocky 
Louisianian whose favorite expression was "Watch out! Here comes 'the Hoss' 
and God's on the Hoss's side," urged his men to the top. They made it with 
fixed bayonets and immediately became engaged in a close-quarters fight that 
was to last all morning. 

Just as Company L gained the top of Kakazu West the situation was 
becoming desperate on Kakazu Ridge. The Japanese charged through their own 
mortar barrage into the American lines. Hand-to-hand fighting, especially in 
Company A's section, raged without a lull until 0745. Since the support platoons 
were pinned down in the open ground between the gorge and the hill, 
reinforcement was impossible; yet more and more of the enemy closed in. 

Capt. Jack A. Royster, commander of Company A, reported that it would 
be forced to withdraw or would be wiped out unless reinforcements could be 
brought up or the 3d Battalion could come abreast on the right (west). 15 He 
evidently did not know that only Company L of the 3d Battalion had made the 
top of Kakazu West and that it was now fighting for its life. Company B was 
ordered to move up behind A but was stopped by the fire blanketing the gorge. 
The enemy was keeping over the gorge a curtain of steel and explosive which 
prevented more Americans from moving up, while Japanese counterattacking 
elements were attempting to finish off the small force on the top. 



1st Bn, 383d Inf, Unit Jnl, Entry No. 5, 9 Apr 45. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



117 



"Hold the Ridge at All Costs!" 

At 0830 Company C was being heavily attacked on its exposed left (east) 
flank. Colonel King, 1st Battalion commander, had ordered Captain Royster to 
hold at all costs, but now knew that the game was up. He radioed Colonel May: 

Have 50 men on ridge. Support elements pinned down. Heavy concentrations of mor- 
tars and artillery being laid down on troops beside MG crossfire. If we do not get reinforce- 
ments, we will have to withdraw. 16 

Colonel May was acting under a division field order which called for a 
"vigorous" attack to the south. 1 ' He was unwilling to relinquish his toe hold on 
Kakazu; to do so meant giving up vital high ground. Furthermore, he felt that 
the 1 st Battalion would lose as many men in attempting a retreat as in trying to 
hang on. Colonel May therefore radioed to the 1st Battalion : 

Sending G Company to reinforce you ... if the Battalion CO is jumpy, have the 
executive officer take over. Hold the ridge at all costs. 18 

He then ordered the 2d Battalion to fill the gap between the 1st and 3d Battalions 
by sending Company G forward. Company G, however, was 1,000 yards to the 
rear and did not arrive in time to help the 1st Battalion out. 

Up on Kakazu Ridge, Captain Royster felt his position was untenable. 
Although almost blind from a mortar burst, he kept rallying his men until a 
smoke barrage gave them concealment for the move back. The first smoke from 
a chemical company blew over the lines, but at 1000 it was effective enough for 
C and A to begin their withdrawal. A rear guard held the crest while the 
wounded men were carried out. The remaining troops on Kakazu, along with 
those who had been pinned down in the open ground near the gorge, moved 
back through mortar fire. 

The first members of A and C to reach the gorge were met there at 1030 
by Capt. John C. Van Vulpen of Company B, who had been trying to move up 
to reinforce them. Under orders from battalion to attack, Captain Van Vulpen 
led the forty-six able-bodied men of his company up the south bank of the gorge 
onto the open ground. They had gone only a few yards when a hail of mortar 
shells and machine-gun fire wounded seven of the men. Advance was impossible 
as the enemy had both the gorge and the area north of the gorge under artillery 
and mortar fire. During the afternoon the survivors of the three companies 

10 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 8, 9 Apr 45. 

17 96th Div FO No. 14, 3 Apr 45; FO No. 15, 7 Apr 45. 

18 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 9, 9 Apr 45. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



straggled back to the battalion lines. For many the trip was a nightmare of hair- 
breadth escapes; the battalion surgeon considered none of the survivors fit for 
further duty. 

Company L Fights On 

With the withdrawal of Companies C and A during the morning of 9 April, 
Company L was the sole American unit on Kakazu. Lieutenant Mitchell and 
his men held the northernmost of two knolls that made up Kakazu West. 
Although Mitchell and his men had seized enough of the saddle to set up 
machine guns in its slight defilade, they were unable to seize the southern knoll. 
The Japanese, who were making their main effort against Companies C and A 
on Kakazu Ridge, were unable to push the Americans off the northern knoll 
of Kakazu West, although they drove in close enough to engage in hand-grenade 
and even satchel-charge duels. 

About noon the enemy apparently realized that the American force on 
Kakazu West was not as strong as its fierce resistance had seemed to indicate. 
He launched four hard counterattacks during the afternoon with forces of from 
platoon to company strength. The Japanese infantry attacked through their 
own mortar fire, throwing potato mashers and satchel charges. Lieutenant 
Mitchell's booming voice could be heard above the din of battle as he directed 
the defense. 

Heroism was commonplace on Kakazu West that afternoon. Both machine 
gunners took their weapons out into the open for better fields of fire; one of 
them, Sgt. James Pritchard, fired six boxes of ammunition and killed many 
Japanese charging up the west slopes of Kakazu West before he was mortally 
wounded. When ammunition was exhausted in the mortar section, which was 
supporting the company from a position at the base of the steep cliff on the 
north of Kakazu West, S/Sgt. Erb.y L. Boyd, section leader, volunteered to go 
to the rear through the fire-swept gorge for more ammunition. He was killed 
in the attempt. Pfc. Joseph Solch stood up in full view of the enemy and 
emptied three BAR clips into their midst, killing fifteen Japanese. Solch was 
the only survivor of six men who earlier in the day had knocked out a spigot 
mortar at the base of the reverse slope of Kakazu West, after watching four 
enemy soldiers pull the huge launcher out of a cave on a 40-foot track, fire 
the mortar, and pull the launcher back into the cave. 

Desperate efforts to relieve the pressure on Company L were fruitless. 
Colonel May had ordered the 2d Battalion to send Company G on Kakazu 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



II 9 



between L on Kakazu West and A on Kakazu Ridge. Company G did not 
reach the gorge until midafternoon. By this time Company I, which had been 
pinned down in the open area just south of Uchitomari, had managed to work 
its way forward by one's and two's to more covered positions. Together Com- 
panies I and G tried at 1400 to reach L's left (east) flank. But because of heavy 
Japanese fire they were not able to cross the ravine. The enemy's curtain of fire 
along the gorge was still impassable. 
Retreat From Ka\azu West 

By 1600 Lieutenant Mitchell realized that his position was hopeless. Of 
eighty-nine men who had reached the top of Kakazu West, fifteen had now been 
killed and only three were uninjured. One man had just been blown thirty feet 
into the air by what Lieutenant Mitchell suspected was American naval gunfire. 
Worst of all, the company was almost out of ammunition. Those who still had 
a few rounds had obtained them by stripping the dead and wounded of ammu- 
nition; others had none at all. The machine guns stood idle, their belts empty. 
The last counterattack at 1530 had been launched by from 100 to 150 Japanese, 
and Lieutenant Mitchell knew that his small force could not withstand another 
such onslaught. 

Deciding to withdraw, Lieutenant Mitchell called for supporting fires, and 
these were expertly handled. The 4.2-inch chemical smoke on the south side of 
Kakazu West was interspersed with high explosive artillery shells to keep the 
enemy pinned down. Under cover of the smoke the survivors of Company L 
pulled back off the hill to the gorge, carrying their wounded with them. Lieu- 
tenant Mitchell then had the concentration moved to the top and north slopes 
of Kakazu West. Nevertheless Japanese machine gunners, firing blindly into 
the smoke, killed two of the men on the way back. 

It had been a black day for the 383d Infantry. The regiment had suffered 
326 casualties — 23 killed, 256 wounded, 47 missing. 19 The 1st Battalion was at 
half strength and was considered ineffective. Colonel May had relieved Colonel 
King of the 1st Battalion and had placed the battalion's executive officer, Maj. 
Kenny W. Lrickson, in command. Company L had only thirty-eight men left, 
including the company headquarters. The regiment had gained no ground. 
However, it had killed about 420 of the enemy. Company L was later awarded 
the Distinguished Unit Citation for its tenacity in holding on against great 
odds. 20 

10 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 24, 9 Apr 45. 
20 Tenth Army GO No. 104, 23 Jun 45. 



120 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



"Powerhouse Attach^' on Ka\azu, 10 April 

Even before the attack of 9 April disintegrated, Brig. Gen. Claudius M. 
Easley, assistant division commander, Colonel May, commander of the 383d, 
and Col. M. E. Halloran, commander of the 381st, had met at the 383d command 
post to plan a "powerhouse attack" for 10 April/ 1 One regiment had assailed 
Kakazu unsuccessfully on 9 April; now two regiments were to do the job, under 
the direction of General Easley. The 381st was to assault Kakazu West from 
positions south of Uchitomari; the 383d was to attack Kakazu Ridge from posi- 



tions north of the gorge. (See Map No. X.) 



No tanks were to move out with the assault battalions. They could not 
negotiate the gorge at the base of Kakazu; if the tanks tried to make a wide 
flanking move on the right (west) south of Uchitomari, they would encounter 
a jumble of rice paddies and terraced fields under direct fire from the enemy; 
similarly a wide sweep on the left, east of the deepest part of the gorge, would 
bring the tanks into the open, fire-swept ground where the 382d was inching 
ahead. As a result, the infantry-tank team, which proved to be so indispensable 
a weapon in the final reduction of the Shuri defenses, could not be used in the 
attack on Kakazu. The two regiments, however, were to have exceptionally 
heavy artillery support from seven battalions of field artillery, including Marine 
battalions attached to the 96th. 22 Naval gunfire and three squadrons of Navy 
fighter planes were also on call. 

Artillery opened a 15-minute preparation at 0645 on 10 April, but, as Gen- 
eral Easley felt that it had not fallen close enough to the lines to be effective, 
he ordered another 15-minute bombardment. The 2d Battalion, 381st Infantry, 
then jumped off from the outskirts of Uchitomari toward Kakazu West; it soon 
came under intense mortar and machine-gun fire. The 1st Battalion, 381st, 
moved up behind the 2d. At first the 383d met little resistance; thus during the 
morning the attack on Kakazu revolved around the efforts of the 381st. 

A part of the 2d Battalion, 381st Infantry, soon was pinned down by fire 
in the open area north of the gorge — about the same place where Company I, 
383d, had been stopped on the previous day — but some troops managed to reach 
it. Already the enemy had his curtain of fire established along the length of the 
gorge, and the men of the 2d Battalion were forced to cling to overhanging rocks 
on the south side to escape the fire. A heavy mortar barrage dropped on the 
gorge as more troops moved up. 

21 383d Tnf Jnl, Msg No. 16, 9 Apr 45. 

22 96th Div FO No. 16, 9 Apr 45. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



121 



At 0805 leading elements of the 2d Battalion moved out of the gorge and 
started up the north slope of Kakazu West in a skirmish line. Resistance was 
not strong; machine guns on the crest of Kakazu West were knocked out by 
small flanking movements. By 0930 the troops were on the crest of Kakazu 
West, where they hastily consolidated their position, knowing that Company 
L of the 383d had been forced off this very height on the previous day. Soon two 
companies were on the hill. Here they waited for the 383d to move up on their 
left (east) flank onto Kakazu Ridge. 
Chec\mate at Kakazu Ridge 

The 383d, however, was not making much progress. Both battalions, the 
3d on the right (west) and the 2d on the left, advanced until they were stopped 
by enemy fire just short of the gorge, which on 10 April, as on 9 April, was the 
dominant element of the action. Although Colonel May believed that enemy 
fire was negligible and radioed both battalions to move forward toward Kakazu 
Ridge, the battalions could not advance. 23 As a result, both battalions became 
involved in flanking movements. Part of the 2d Battalion never left the area 
north of the gorge, but other elements moved southeast along the Uchitomari- 
Kaniku road, turned right (south) on Highway 5, and infiltrated through 
houses along the highway to flank the gorge. They were still no better off, 
however, for the enemy had the open area here under control by fire. The 2d 
Battalion stayed in this position, at the eastern end of the gorge in front of 
Kakazu Ridge, for the rest of the day. 

When stopped at the gorge, the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, made a flanking 
move in a direction opposite to that taken by the 2d Battalion, moving west 
toward the 381st regimental sector. The 3d Battalion managed to cross the 
gorge at the north base of Kakazu West in the 381st sector. It then attacked up the 
north slopes cf that hill, connecting with the 2d Battalion, 381st, in the latter's 
sector on the northeast side. By 1100 elements of the 381st and 383d held the top 
of Kakazu West, its northern slopes, and part of the saddle between Kakazu 
West and Kakazu Ridge. The hold was none too secure, for the enemy had 
troops available for counterattack and was placing intermittent machine-gun 
and mortar fire on Kakazu West. 

Kakazu Ridge was still unconquered. About noon the 2d Battalion, 383d, 
attacked east along the saddle connecting Kakazu Ridge and Kakazu West, in 
an effort to take the ridge. The attempt was abortive ; the troops advanced about 

23 383d Inf Jnl, Msg Nos. 18 and 19, 10 Apr 45. 




KAKAZU GORGE from the saddle between Ka\azu Ridge and Kafyazu West, giving an 
idea of its depth. Path shown was used by the 381st Infantry, 96th Division, to reach 
Ka\azu hills. (Photo tahen some time after action.) 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



123 



100 yards and then were pinned down by machine-gun and mortar fire from 
Kakazu Ridge. It was now raining, and movement was more difficult than ever. 
The 2d Battalion, 381st, tried to push south along the crest of Kakazu West in 
order to gain ground dominating the town of Kakazu and the reverse slope of 
Kakazu Ridge. The troops made a small gain; then quickly a vicious counter- 
attack drove them back to their original positions on the north knob of Kakazu 
West. 

At this point the struggle for Kakazu had become a stalemate. The Japanese 
had stopped the American troops, but they could not mount enough power to 
drive them off Kakazu as they had done the previous day. The Americans were 
facing a situation that was to be repeated many times on Okinawa: the enemy 
had more strength on the reverse slope of the hill than on the crest or forward 
slope, since on the reverse slope he had considerable concealment and cover from 
hostile fire. 

The situation was now critical, for the 3d Battalion, 383d, had suffered many 
casualties during the day, especially among the small-unit commanders, and 
was now being vigorously attacked. At 1345 General Easley attempted to break 
the deadlock. He ordered the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, to pass through the 
right (west) flank of the 383d in the saddle, and instructed the latter to hold on 
until help arrived. 

By 1400 the 1st Battalion, 381st, was on the move in a column of companies, 
following the same route of approach that had been used by the 2d Battalion in 
the morning. About half the battalion was across the gorge when the enemy 
again placed his prearranged mortar concentrations and machine-gun fire on 
this vulnerable point. Cut off from some of their supporting elements, the for- 
ward troops of the 1st Battalion made their way up the steep slopes of Kakazu 
West in the pouring rain. Some of the near elements later joined them; others 
never reached Kakazu West that day. 

At about 1530 the 1st Battalion of the 381st finally arrived to relieve the 3d 
Battalion of the 383d in the saddle. But it was too late for an effective relief. A 
part of the 3d Battalion had given way before the fierce enemy attack, and the 
relieving troops discovered a horde of Japanese where they had expected to find 
only Americans. Nevertheless, the 1st Battalion attacked southeast along Kakazu 
Ridge. The attack was not delivered -in strength, however, and it failed. Later, 
some of the elements of the 1st Battalion which were cut off at the gorge rejoined 
the unit, and by darkness the troops had worked their way up the north slopes 
of Kakazu Ridge to within twenty yards of the crest. 



124 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The Enemy Clings to Kakazu Ridge, 11-12 April 

Under regimental orders to seize Kakazu Ridge, the 1st Battalion, 381st 
Infantry, attacked across the saddle at 0700 on 11 April. The troops worked up 
the western slope of the ridge but then came under severe flat trajectory gunfire 
from the area south of Kakazu and under high-angle mortar fire from the reverse 
(southern) slope of Kakazu Ridge. The Japanese also threw satchel charges at 
them from the crest of Kakazu Ridge. Although the attacking troops were sup- 
ported by fire from the top of Kakazu West, they finally were forced to dig in 
short of the crest of the ridge. Here the enemy made two sharp counterattacks, 
which were stopped mainly by one man, T/Sgt. Alfred C. Robertson. With 
BAR, rifle, grenades, bayonet, and trench knife Robertson killed about twenty- 
eight of the enemy, and in addition directed mortar fire when his radio operator 
was seriously wounded. 

The 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, spent the morning in its position on the 
north slope of the saddle, receiving rations and ammunition brought through 
the gorge under heavy fire. At 1300 this battalion, with the 1st Battalion, 381st, 
on the right (southwest), drove up the northwest slopes of Kakazu Ridge. Since 
the commander of the 1st had been unable to cross the gorge, Colonel Stare, 
commander of the 3d Battalion, directed the attack. 

After advancing about 150 yards the attacking troops came under severe 
mortar and machine-gun fire from the crest and reverse slope of Kakazu Ridge. 
Even heavier fire was coming from the reverse (south) slope of Kakazu West, 
which was still in enemy hands. Colonel Stare decided that his assault could 
continue only if the 2d Battalion of the 381st, occupying the northern part of 
the top of Kakazu West, attacked and destroyed the Japanese who still clung 
to the southern portion of Kakazu West. 

Through heavy fire Colonel Stare made his way to the 2d Battalion 
command post to plan this attack with Lt. Col. Russell Graybill, 2d Battalion 
commander. Just as the attack was about to be launched the Japanese counter- 
attacked on Kakazu West, and Colonel Graybill's men had all they could do 
to hold their positions. Colonel Stare then called off further attacks on Kakazu 
Ridge and ordered casualties evacuated under a smoke screen. The two battalions 
on the northwest slopes of Kakazu Ridge drew back to their original positions. 
Once again the enemy had retained his grip on the main portions of Kakazu. 

During the night of 11-12 April the Japanese bombarded the Uchitomari- 
Kakazu area with huge mortar shells, some of them 320-mm. One fell squarely 
on the aid station of the 1st Battalion of the 381st, killing the two medical 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



I2 5 



officers and eleven soldiers and wounding nine others. On 12 April the 96th 
Division made its final attempt to take Kakazu. After planes bombed and 
rocketed the crest and reverse slope of Kakazu Ridge, the 1st Battalion, 381st, 
attacked up the northwest slopes of the ridge. The Japanese waited for the planes 
to leave and then opened up with one of the heaviest mortar concentrations the 
96th had ever met. For over an hour mortar shells burst on the rocky slopes at a 
rate faster than one a second. Three times the troops of the 381st attacked; each 
time, in the face not only of this mortar fire, but also of machine-gun and rifle 
fire, grenades, and satchel charges, the attack disintegrated. The battalion lost 
forty-five men. Although the mortar fire stopped as soon as the Americans 
pulled back, the enemy was still very much in control of the situation on 
Kakazu Ridge. 

In the midst of the bitter struggle for the Shuri line the troops received 
almost unbelievable news. Early on 12 April word flashed through the bivouac 
areas and along the front lines on Okinawa that President Roosevelt had died. 
The enemy also heard the news, and attempted to capitalize on it. Shortly 
afterward a Japanese propaganda leaflet was found which stated: 

We must express our deep regret over the death of President Roosevelt. The "Ameri- 
can Tragedy" is now raised here at Okinawa with his death. You must have seen 70% of 
your CV's and 73% of your B's sink or be damaged causing 150,000 casualties. Not only 
the late President but anyone else would die in the excess of worry to hear such an 
annihilative damage. The dreadful loss that led your late leader to death will make you 
orphans on this island. The Japanese special attack corps will sink your vessels to the last 
destroyer. You will witness it realized in the near future. 24 

American Attack^ on the East ~Flan\ Halted, 10-12 April 

While elements of the 96th Division were attempting fruitlessly to take 
Kakazu Ridge, other elements of that division, together with units of the 7th 
Division, were trying to continue the advance on the east flank that had begun 
with the success of the 184th Infantry on 8-9 April. The capture of Tomb 
Hill by the 184th on 9 April, after an infantry attack supported by the massed 
fire of mortars and guns, made it possible for the 7th Division to advance 
several hundred yards on 9 and 10 April. The 326 Infantry continued to push 
ahead on the east along the flat coastal plain, while the 184th moved along the 
rough high ground farther inland. Despite bad weather conditions the troops 
were supported by naval gunfire and artillery. Enemy resistance was stiffening. 

M 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 23, 23 Apr 45. 



126 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Japanese artillery fire increased in intensity, and the 7th experienced several 
small but well-organized counterattacks. |(See Map No. XI.) 

On 10 and 11 April the 32d Infantry tried to advance into the town of Ouki, 
while the 184th on the heights warded off small counterattacks, sealed up caves, 
and consolidated its positions. The Japanese had made Ouki into a strong point, 
covered by their artillery and protected on the north by a well-laid mine field, 
pillboxes, and trenches. A chill, penetrating rain made advance difficult and the 
troops miserable. The 2d Battalion of the 32d, coordinating with the 184th Infan- 
try on the west, moved slowly over a series of small spurs overlooking the plain, 
while the 1st Battalion of the 32d advanced against Ouki below. 

On 11 April troops of the 1st Battalion entered Ouki on the heels of an 
artillery preparation, killing forty-five Japanese soldiers in the attack. The sup- 
porting tanks, however, were held up by a mined antitank ditch north of Ouki. 
Japanese heavy weapons opened up on the tanks and mine-clearing squads, 
cutting of? the troops in Ouki from their supporting elements just as they had 
done in the Kakazu fight when they covered the gorge with fire. The troops in 
Ouki had to retreat from their exposed position. On 12 April the 1st Battalion 
sent patrols into Ouki, and the 2d Battalion reconnoitered Ishin, 400 yards to the 
west, but neither made advances. The 7th Division lines were now stabilized a 
few hundred yards northeast of Hill 178, a strongly held enemy position. 20 

The 382d Infantry of the 96th Division, in the center of the XXIV Corps 
line, also came to a standstill during 9-12 April. The 382d had three battalions 
on line by 10 April — the 2d on the right (west), the 1st in the center, and the 3d 
on the left. On the west the 2d Battalion tied in loosely with the 383d Infantry 
on Highway 5; on the east a large gap lay between the 184th Infantry of the 
7th Division and the 382d. The terrain fronting the 382d was notable for its 
irregularity but had a few prominent features lending themselves to defense. 
The enemy had fortified Tombstone Ridge, a long low hill running northeast- 
southwest just south of Kaniku, as well as high ground south of Nishibaru. 
Kakazu Ridge extended across much of the regiment's right (west) front; and 
the upper part of the gorge, east of Highway 5, was an effective obstacle even if 
less precipitous here than on the other side of the highway north of Kakazu. 

The main effort of the 382d during this period was made on 10 April, while 
the 381st and 383d on the west were attempting their "powerhouse" attack on 



2-J 7th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 49-50; 184th Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 12-13; 3 2 ^ ln f Actn Rpt, pp. 10-12; XXIV 
Corps G— 3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 9-14, 9-14 Apr 45. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



127 



Kakazu. The 382c! attacked southwest with three battalions in line. On the west 
the 2d Battalion advanced several hundred yards and crossed the gorge, only 
to halt in the face of heavy fire from its front and flanks. On the regimental left 
(east) the 3d Battalion gained one of the knobs east of Tombstone Ridge, but 
continual rain, which bogged down the tanks and decreased visibility, combined 
with heavy enemy mortar, machine-gun, and 47-mm. fire to force the battalion 
to withdraw to its original position north of the Ginowan road. 

The 382d suffered its worst setbacks of 10 April in the center of its line. 
The 1 st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles W. Johnson, attacked Tomb- 
stone Ridge, which dominated the ground across the entire regimental front. 
By 0840 Company A had seized the northern nose of the ridge, but it was stopped 
by small-arms fire from the steep slopes of the ridge and by heavy artillery and 
mortar fire. Colonel Johnson then swung Companies B and C around west of 
Kaniku for an assault on the ridge from the northwest. The Japanese were 
unusually quiet while Companies B and C advanced to the crest, but shortly 
afterward they delivered a 15-minute concentration of mortar and artillery fire, 
at the conclusion of which they swarmed out of pillboxes, trenches, and caves. 

A furious struggle followed. From the reverse slope of Tombstone machine 
guns opened up on the Americans at almost point-blank range. The Americans 
used portable flame throwers, but the Japanese brought forward flame throwers 
of their own. Spigot mortar shells burst on the hill. Colonel Johnson, who had 
previously extricated Company A from its deadlocked position on the north of 
Tombstone, now committed it on the right (southwest) of the other two com- 
panies. It was of no avail. On the northeast flank, now open, the Japanese over- 
ran a machine-gun position; only one man was able to escape. The American 
troops on the right made a few more yards in a desperate effort to gain a firm 
foothold on the ridge. By 14 15 it was obvious to Colonel Johnson that further 
attack would be fruitless, and he secured permission from regiment to pull out 
of the fire-swept area. The men made an orderly retreat to high ground north 
of Kaniku. More spigot mortar fire fell during the withdrawal, but the troops 
remained calm; they were "too tired to give a damn." 26 

The abortive attacks of the 382d Infantry on 10 April were its last attempts 
to move forward until the Corps' offensive opened on 19 April. On n and 12 
April this regiment, like the 7th Division to the east, mopped up small bypassed 

^Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. I, pp. 41-42, 49-55; 96th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 11-13; 
382d In£ Actn Rpt, pp. 2-4. 




TOMBSTONE RIDGE AREA (photographed 10 July 7945). 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



129 



groups of the enemy and sent out patrols to probe enemy positions on the front 
and flanks. Intelligence sections of the combat units redoubled their efforts to 
discover the strength and the weaknesses of the Shuri defensive system. 

From 8 to 12 April the enemy had delivered intense fires, concentrating 
on the American front lines, observation posts, and forward command posts. 
The 7th Division reported that more than 1,000 rounds of 75-mm., 105-mm., 
and 150-mm. artillery fell in its sector on 8 April, and more than 2,000 rounds 
on 10 April. Evidently in order to minimize counterbattery fire, artillery units 
received orders from General Ushijima to cooperate "secretly" — that is, with all 
precautions to conceal their location — in the 62^ Division fighting. 27 Some of 
the enemy's fires were extremely accurate. He knocked out one medium tank 
with a series of direct hits, damaged the control tower at Kadena airfield seven 
miles from his front lines, and dropped a concentration on a battalion command 
post and aid station that took a toll of forty-one casualties. The Japanese showed 
themselves fully aware of the value of artillery in supporting a coordinated 
attack. A captured map, showing artillery position areas, indicated a well- 
conceived plan for use of artillery and mortars. However, because of the great 
dispersion of their pieces and the inadequacy of their communications, they did 
not show themselves capable of massing the fires of more than one battery. 
Moreover, the Japanese did not exploit the capabilities of their heavy artillery 
by delivering persistent harassing or interdictory fires deep within opposing 
lines. 25 

Despite the effective defensive fighting of the enemy during 9-12 April, 
his strategy, as he was fully aware, was essentially a negative one. He was losing 
men faster than the Americans ; by 1600 on 12 April about 5,750 of the enemy 
were estimated to have been killed, as against 451 of the XXIV Corps. The 
Corps had suffered approximately 2,900 casualties, including 2,198 wounded 
and 241 missing. The enemy had lost heavily in some of his key combat units. 
The 12th Independent Infantry Battalion had been reduced to 475 effectives 
by 12 April, little more than one-third of its original strength. 29 XXIV Corps 
had captured or destroyed 17 artillery pieces, 40 mortars, including 32 knee 
mortars, 20 antitank guns, 79 machine guns, 262 rifles, and moderate amounts 
of ammunition and supplies. Although these losses represented only a small 

27 Tenth Army Transl No. 265, 12 Jul 45: 32CI Army Ord No. 146, 9 Apr 45. 

28 Tenth Army Inc Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. D, Ch. I: Artillery, p. 2; XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 
5, 17 Apr 45, pp. 5-6. 

29 XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 9, 15 May 45: JOB Summary. 



130 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



decrease in over-all strength, they were irreplaceable, whereas American losses 
both in personnel and in equipment, though moderately heavy, could be 
replaced. 

American control of the air and sea meant that the enemy's capabilities 
rested on an ever-diminishing supply of men, weapons, and ammunition. 
Probably it was this consideration which in April, and again in May, strength- 
ened the hands of the aggressive members of the jid Army staff with their visions 
of victory through all-out attack. 

The Enemy Ta\es the Offensive 

Eager for offensive action, aggressive-minded members of the staff of the 
Japanese Army proposed at a conference on 6 April that an all-out attack 
be made to drive the Americans out of southern Okinawa. In the proposed plan, 
the 62d Division was to spearhead the attack and advance northeast of Yontan 
airfield. The 24th Division was to drive up the east coast, and the 44th Inde- 
pendent Mixed Brigade would be held in reserve. The plan was vigorously 
opposed by Colonel Yahara and other cooler heads among the staff officers. 
They reasoned that, even if the attacks should succeed initially, the Japanese 
troops would be at the mercy of American bombardment since no positions had 
been prepared in the area. Furthermore, the south would be left defenseless 
against new landings. The majority of the staff members were convinced that 
only a madman could envision the success of such a venture. Accordingly the 
plan was dropped — reluctantly by the so-called radical element. 30 

The decision did not dispose of the basic issue between the radicals and the 
conservatives in the ^2d Army staff. The "fire-eaters," as Colonel Yahara called 
them, continued to chafe at the static defensive strategy followed by the Japanese 
during early April. When, on 9-10 April, the Americans came to a virtual stand- 
still at the approaches to the Shuri defenses, those who had favored aggressive 
action continued to advocate an all-out offensive despite their earlier rebuff at 
the hands of the more cautious staff members. At a staff meeting on the night 
of 9 or 10 April, General Ushijima gave in, over Colonel Yahara's protests, to 
this aggressive element. It was decided that three battalions of the 62^ Division 
and three of the 24th would attack toward Kishaba on the evening of 12 April. 31 

30 Tenth Army PW Interrog Rpt No. 28 (cited hereafter as Interrog Yahara) , 6 Aug 45. 

31 Ibid. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



131 



The enemy's choice of the time of attack seemed a shrewd one. The Ameri- 
can forces had suffered heavy casualties, and reinforcements were not yet in line. 
The events of 9-12 April, not only at Kakazu but across the entire front, had 
seen the American drive lose momentum in the face of the Shuri defenses. The 
failure of the American attack and the unyielding Japanese defense set the 
stage for an enemy counteroff ensive during 12-13 April. 
The Enemy Prepares to Attac\ 

The main obstacle to a successful attack, the 32^ Army staff believed, 
would be American field artillery and naval gunfire. In previous campaigns 
Japanese offensives had failed largely because the area over which the troops 
advanced was smothered with gunfire within a few moments of the opening 
of the attack. As a result, the enemy plan for 12-13 April called for a mass 
infiltration in force through American lines across almost the entire front. 
After a bombardment by Japanese artillery, three battalions of the 62c! Division 
on the west and three of the 22d Regiment of the 24th Division on the east were 
to penetrate the American lines during the night of 12-13 April; then the troops 
were to scatter through the American-held area as far north as Kishaba, one 
and a half miles northeast of Futema, each battalion taking an assigned area. 
The Japanese were to hide in caves and tombs, awaiting an opportunity to 
fall upon Tenth Army rear elements on 13 April. They would then be able to 
engage the Americans in hand-to-hand combat, at which they considered 
themselves superior. American guns would be silent since their fire would 
endanger friendly troops as much as Japanese. 82 | (See Map No. XII. )| 

The 62a 1 Division, already in line, pulled some of its units to the west 
to enable the 22d Regiment to move into position. The 22d was located on Oroku 
Peninsula south of Naha. Moving into line was in itself a major effort since the 
entire route was exposed to bombardment. Lt. Col. Masaru Yoshida, commander 
of the 22d, on 10 April instructed his troops on the importance of secrecy: 

Although you will be traveling in darkness over bad roads and under severe shelling, 
the secrecy of our plans must be maintained to the last. March in a sinuous "eel line." 
Although you are going to an unfamiliar place, do not make any noise when you arrive, 
but dig foxholes in hard ground, and camouflage them skillfully by dawn tomorrow. 

Carrying no-lb. packs and hiding in canefields during the day, the troops 
pushed east and north along slippery roads in heavy rain. !1 

32 md. 

33 96th Div Periodic Rpt No. 48, 19 May 45, Translations: 2zd Regt Ord, 11 Apr 45; No. 45, 16 May 45, 
diary of member of 22d Regt. 



132 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The 62d Division was ordered to maintain its existing line from Kakazu to 
Ouki "at all costs." While the 22d Regiment passed through the 62d Division 
positions on the east for a "sweeping attack" toward Kishaba, the 63d Brigade 
was to "advance the Army's attack by recapturing and holding front-line 
positions after the Army's offense had developed." 34 By this means the enemy 
presumably hoped to maintain pressure on American forward combat elements 
while his infiltration units went to work on rear echelons. Meanwhile, the 
272^ Independent Infantry Battalion, attached to the 62d Division, together with 
other elements of that division, were to attack in the Kakazu area in coordination 
with the move of the 22d Regiment. 

At the last minute there was a change in plans. Colonel Yahara and the 
other conservatives, considering the entire scheme too bold, succeeded in reduc- 
ing the forces participating to four battalions. There was also some fear that 
the Americans might attempt a landing in the Yonabaru area, and it was there- 
fore considered necessary to hold forces in reserve near that town. 35 Nevertheless, 
Colonel Yoshida's order to his 22^ Regiment on the eve of the attack showed no 
change in the objective of the audacious plan. At 1900 on 12 April Japanese artil- 
lery was to open up a 30-minute bombardment. Supported by a "maximum of 
infantry fire power," forward infiltration squads were to penetrate American 
lines and seize strategic points on the ridge line along Buckner Bay. Other infil- 
tration squads were to follow. By dawn the Japanese would be infiltrating into 
American bivouac areas as far north as Kishaba, and the close-quarters combat 
would be under way. 36 
Enemy Attack, Crushed, 13 April 

Brilliant enemy flares exploded over the battle lines shortly after dusk on 
12 April. Two of them were red parachute flares; another seemed to be a dragon 
flare. American intelligence officers consulted a Japanese signal code, captured 
a few days before. The red bursts meant, "We are attacking with full strength 
tonight"; the dragon flare stood for, "Make all-out attack." 37 

Shortly after the first flare Japanese artillery opened up an intense bom- 
bardment. Hundreds of enemy 105-mm. and 150-mm. shells burst throughout 
areas just behind the American lines — most of them around command posts, 

34 7th Div G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 27, 27 Apr 45. 

3B Interrog Yahara; see also XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45, and No. 36, 6 May 45. 

86 Tenth Army Transl No. 198, 1 Jul 45: 2id Regt Op Ord No. 63, 12 Apr 45. 

87 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 13, 14 Apr 45; for the captured signal code, see 7th Div G— 2 
Periodic Rpt No. 7, 7 Apr 45. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



133 



observation posts, and artillery positions. Regiments reported receiving the 
heaviest barrages in their experience. In the 96th Division area, more than 1,000 
rounds fell on the 381st Infantry, approximately 1,200 on the 383d. The troops 
were well dug in, however, and losses were light. The 3d Battalion of the 184th 
Infantry, 7th Division, estimated that 200 rounds of 105-mm. fire landed in front 
of them within the space of five minutes, but no casualties resulted. 

The attack on the 32d and 184th Infantry was not in regimental strength, 
as planned. Two infiltration attempts by about a squad each were repulsed by 
the 184th before midnight. Two squads also attacked the 3d Battalion of the 
382d Infantry, just to the west of the 184th, and a savage fight ensued, during 
which an American private killed a Japanese officer with his bare hands, but the 
enemy did not follow through with this assault. While groups of two or three 
tried to infiltrate behind the 7t.f1 Division front, the only attack of any weight 
came shortly after midnight against Company G of the 184th. By the light of 
flares it discovered to its front from thirty to forty-five Japanese, carrying rifles 
and demolitions ; the company opened fire and sent the enemy running for the 
cover of caves and trenches. Perhaps, as Colonel Yahara later said, the 22d 
Regiment, which was not familiar with this part of the island as was the 62d 
Division, was bewildered by the terrain and became too broken up for a coordi- 
nated attack. Perhaps another change of plans further weakened the enemy's 
attack on the east. Possibly the 22^ Regiment moved by design or by chance 
to the west and ended by taking part in the attacks on the 96th Division. 

The assault on the 96th v/as heavy, sustained, and well organized. The 
enemy artillery and mortar preparation began promptly at 1900 as planned 
and continued in heavy volume until about midnight, when it lifted over the 
center of the division line. Japanese in groups ranging from platoon to company 
size, with radio communications to their own command posts, began to infil- 
trate in strength into the American lines in the general area between Kakazu 



Ridge and Tombstone Ridge. (See Map No. XIII.) 



The 96th Division front in the area under attack was thinly held by the 
382d and 383d Regiments. There was a large bulge in the lines where the 382d 
had been held up by strong enemy positions in the Nishibaru-Kaniku-Tomb- 
stone Ridge area. A series of fire fights broke out as the Japanese closed with ele- 
ments of the 382d strung along Highway 5 and with troops of the 383d just west 
of the highway. Troops of the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, saw a group of sixty 
soldiers coming down the highway in a column of two's. Thinking they were 



!34 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



troops of the 3820 1 , the 383d let twenty of them through before realizing that 
they were Japanese; then it opened fire and killed most of the enemy group. 
At 0100 the 2d Battalion of the 382d, calling for artillery fire, repulsed an attack 
by a group estimated as of company strength. Although troops of the two 
regiments in this sector killed at least a hundred Japanese during the night, a 
number of the enemy managed to make their way into the Ginowan area. 38 
These Japanese proved to be the only ones who attained any measure of success 
in the entire offensive of 12-13 April. 

By far the heaviest blow was delivered by the 272^ Independent Infantry 
Battalion, commanded by Captain Shimada and operating under control of 
the 62d Division. The 272^ had the mission of attacking Kakazu and breaking 
through at that point. This was no banzai charge; the battalion had a precise 
knowledge of American positions and a carefully drawn-up plan. It was a 
fresh unit, having moved up for the attack from the Shuri area on 10 and 11 
April. Composed of three rifle companies and a machine gun unit, the 272^ was 
smaller than the other independent infantry battalions. The men were well 
supplied with grenades and carried sacks of food. 39 

From dusk of 12 April until past midnight a terrific artillery and mortar 
barrage blanketed the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, on the north slopes of 
Kakazu Ridge, and the 2d Battalion, 381st, on Kakazu West. The barrage 
knocked out the dual wire communication of the 1st Battalion but casualties 
were slight. At 0300 the enemy fire intensified on the north slopes of Kakazu 
West and Kakazu Ridge. This was the signal for the 272^ Battalion to move out 
of Kakazu town up into the draw separating Kakazu Ridge from Kakazu West, 
in an effort to break through the American lines, while smaller groups tried to 
flank Kakazu West on the west. 

Naval illumination was asked, but because of an air raid alert an hour passed 
before it was provided. During that hour, as the Japanese advanced up the south 
slopes of Kakazu and through the draw, a handful of men guarding the draw 
on its lower northern end fought off the attackers until heavier fire power could 
be brought to bear. 

As the enemy, carrying knee mortars and machine guns, advanced down 
the draw into the American lines on the northwest slopes of Kakazu Ridge, a 

38 Interrog Yahara. Colonel Yahara's statement that a battalion reached the Ginowan area is probably 
highly exaggerated. 

39 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. I, p. 62; XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 7, 30 Apr 
45, App. I, p. 3. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



135 



mortar squad of the 1st Battalion of the 381st, led by S/Sgt. Beauford T. Ander- 
son, holed up in a tomb where it commanded the draw. Ordering his men to 
stay under cover, Anderson went out into the dark to face the enemy alone. He 
grenaded the enemy column until his supply of grenades was exhausted, but 
the Japanese kept advancing. In desperation Anderson turned to his squad's 
mortar ammunition. He tore a mortar shell from its casing, pulled the safety 
pin, banged the projectile against the wall to release the set-back pin, and threw 
it football-fashion into the midst of the enemy. Its explosion was followed by 
screams. Anderson threw fourteen more shells and the enemy advance in this 
area came to a halt. In the morning twenty-five dead Japanese were found here, 
weighted down with ammunition and explosives. For this feat Anderson was 
later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Other Japanese infiltrated into the lines of the 2d Battalion on Kakazu 
West. A BAR man was in position along its rocky crest when a Japanese officer 
approached him and asked whether he was a Jap. The BAR man said "No," 
then shot the Japanese officer and ten more of the enemy who were following 
single-file behind him. Personnel of a company command post sallied forth 
from their position in a tomb to kill twenty of the enemy. On the west slopes 
of Kakazu West, an American killed twenty-three more Japanese with his heavy 
machine gun. 

Bright naval illumination robbed the enemy of protective darkness and 
allowed effective use of support fire on the general Kakazu area in front of the 
Americans. The 1st Battalion brought the fire of its 81-mm. mortars to bear on 
the positions of its own forward elements, hoping that American troops would 
remain in their holes. More than 800 rounds of high explosive were successfully 
used in this fashion. The 2d Battalion ordered fire from its attached Marine 
artillery to within 150 yards of its front, successfully risking a clearance of 
15 feet. 

A member of the 2j2d Independent Infantry Battalion who tried to storm 
Kakazu during the night and later escaped by cutting back across American 
territory east of Kakazu wrote in his dairy : 

We started to move again at 0800, and entered the shelter on Hill 70, after advancing 
individually under enemy aerial attack. The other side of the hill is enemy territory. . . . 
Two platoons were organized, including the wounded, etc., for infiltration. Before we 
crossed the hill, the master sergeant was killed and two others were wounded. I was 
leader of the first team of the platoon and started out with four other men. Since the 
company commander got lost on the way, we were pinned down by concentrated mortar 



SADDLE BETWEEN KAKAZU WEST AND KAKAZU RIDGE, through which enemy 
advanced on the night of 12-13 April. Tomb (left ) was used by S/Sgt. Beauford T. Ander- 
son and his mortar squad. Sergeant Anderson is shown below (center) displaying trophies 
of the battle. 



COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE ENEMY 



137 



fire before we could cross the hill. Continuous mortar and machine-gun fire lasted until 
dawn, when we, having suffered heavy casualties, withdrew, taking heavy punishment 
from concussions. . . . Only four of us . . . were left. . . . The Akiyama Tai (1st Company, 
2j2<i) was wiped out while infiltrating. The Shimuzu Tai (2d Company) also suffered 
heavy losses. The company fell apart during withdrawal. 40 

After several hours of fighting, during which a few Japanese tried to come 
in across the sea wall near Uchitomari, the remnants of the enemy force with- 
drew. In the morning 317 enemy dead were counted in the 381st and 383d areas. 
Patrols sent to the crest of Kakazu, which had been a target for American artil- 
lery and mortar fire, reported that "dead were stacked up like cordwood." Nine 
light machine guns, 4 knee mortars, 125 rifles, and 1 radio were captured in the 
Kakazu area. Casualties in the 381st and 383d during the fight totaled about 50. 41 

During the day of 13 April the 7th Division noted several large concen- 
trations of Japanese in front of its lines but it was not attacked. The 96th con- 
tinued to hunt down and destroy Japanese who had infiltrated into its rear areas ; 
some enemy soldiers blew themselves up when cornered. Just before midnight 
the gtk Company, 22d Regiment, which that day had been held in reserve in 
the Kuhazu area, attacked the 184th after an artillery preparation. The assault 
was quickly broken up by artillery, mortars, and machine guns. The enemy 
intensified his artillery fire on Kakazu at dusk and launched an attack in the 
same direction as on the previous night, but this attempt also was soon frustrated 
by artillery. At 0315 on 14 April the enemy attacked for the last time. The 
attackers, estimated at company strength, had heavy supporting fire but were 
repulsed, 116 Japanese being killed. Infiltration attempts were made across the 
Corps line, with little success. 

By dawn of 14 April the Japanese counterattack on the XXIV Corps was 
over. It had been almost a total failure and had confirmed the worst fears of the 
yid Army staff. Its chief effect had been to bring the enemy out of his stout posi- 
tions and render his troops vulnerable to the enormous fire power of the Ameri- 
cans. On the 14th there was practically no enemy activity; it was clear that the 
Japanese had reverted to the defensive. A survivor of the 272^ Battalion well 
summarized the situation in his diary entry for that day: "Back to the trenches," 
he wrote. "Heavy mortar fire continues as usual." 42 

40 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 147-45, 16 Jun 45, p. 52, transl Interrog No. 32. 

41 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 13, 13 Apr. 45; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 13. 14 Apr 45; 
Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. I, pp. 59-64. 

42 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 147-45, p. 53. 



CHAPTER VI 



The Conquest of Northern 
Okinawa 

"All restrictions removed on your advance northward." 1 This message 
from General Buckner reached General Geiger, commander of III Amphibious 
Corps, on 3 April as the 6th Marine Division was approaching the Nakadomari- 
Ishikawa line. The message marked an important change in the Okinawa 
plan. Originally, as part of Phase II, the capture of Motobu Peninsula and the 
neutralization of northern Okinawa were to come after the seizure of southern 
Okinawa. General Buckner's order placed the northern operations in the first 
phase and permitted the III Amphibious Corps to attack the enemy in the 
north while the XXIV Corps was closing with the Shuri defenders in the south. 

There were good reasons for attacking northward without delay. The 
sooner this was done the less chance the enemy would have to organize his 
forces and fortify his positions. Colonel Udo, commander of the Japanese 
forces in the north, was known to be organizing the Okinawans for guerilla 
warfare. There was also the threat of counterlandings in the small ports of 
northern Okinawa by Japanese moving in from other Ryukyu islands or from 
Japan itself; by securing the ports this threat could be removed. 2 

Drive up the Ishi\awa Isthmus, 4-7 April 

By early afternoon of 4 April columns of the 6th Marine Division were 
moving down off the high coral cliffs that overlook Ishikawa Isthmus, the nar- 
row waist of the island leading off to the north, and were advancing to the long 
beach that faces the sea at the town of Ishikawa on the east coast. Here the forces 
of the division gathered. The marines were footsore and weary, but their spirits 

1 Tenth Army G-3 Jnl, Msg No. 7, 3 Apr 45. 

2 The account of Marine operations in the north is based on Carleton, 6th Mar Div History; III Amph 
Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period; and III Amph Corps Action Rpt. Captain Carleton was the 
official historian attached to the 6th Marine Division on Okinawa; he witnessed much of the action, inter- 
viewed participants, and used official records. 



CONQUEST OF NORTHERN OKINAWA 



!39 



were high. North of the Nakadomari-Ishikawa line scattered groups of Japanese 
were straggling toward Motobu Peninsula; south of it American tanks were 
moving up to assembly areas while engineers were organizing dumps and 
bulldozing wide roads toward the isthmus. |(See Map No. 4.) 



This "rear area" work by the engineers was vital, for the advance up the 
isthmus was to be primarily a logistical effort. From the Nakadomari-Ishikawa 
line to the base of Motobu Peninsula there were two narrow roads, one along 
each coast, which were difficult to widen because they frequently ran along 
sea walls or wound around steep hills. Aerial reconnaissance had indicated 
that many bridges were out. Between the coastal roads was a rugged mountain 
range, covered with brush and grass. At long intervals roads and trails crossed 
the isthmus. The 6th Marine Division's hardest task was to move troops, vehicles, 
supplies, tanks, and guns over these one-way roads without losing the momentum 
that had been moving the division ahead at the rate of 7,000 yards a day. 

The advance up the isthmus was spearheaded by the 226. Marines. Its tank- 
infantry teams moved along the coasts, making short patrols inland. Along the 
high ground in the center its 1st Battalion proceeded more slowly, patrolling 
trails and intercepting enemy stragglers. When the 226. reached the Atsutabaru- 
Kin line, the regiment paused while the 4th Marines passed through on the 
east and the 29th on the west. The marines encountered only stragglers except 
during the night of 5-6 April, when from thirty to forty Japanese blundered into 
their lines and were killed or driven off. 

Both regiments continued to advance with great rapidity. The division 
prescribed a method of leapfrogging that at the same time freed the roads and 
provided security. As the battalions pressed ahead, platoons peeled off to patrol 
in advance or on the flanks. Their mission completed, they returned to the 
rear of the column. Trucks and supplies followed swiftly as engineers cleared 
roads and repaired bridges. LVT's and LST's waited for the troops to secure 
likely inlets or bays where they could unload. 

The 29th Marines reached Chuda on 6 April and threw a line across the 
isthmus on the road there. In its sector the enemy's destruction of bridges had 
been inept; frequently only a span of the bridge had been dropped or cracked. 
The engineers cut hasty bypasses for the vehicles, repairing the broken spans 
later. The 4th Marines, however, was delayed by blown bridges, since destruction 
had been more effective in its sector on the east coast; at one point engineers 
had to set in a 120-foot bridge. 



ADVANCE IN THE NORTH 

6TH MARINE DIVISION 

4-B April 1945 




CONQUEST OF NORTHERN OKINAWA 



I 4 I 



Behind reconnaissance units and tanks the 29th Marines advanced on 7 
April into Nago, a medium-sized town nestling in the deep bend where Motobu 
juts out westward from the island. A spearhead drove north to Taira, cutting 
Motobu off from the rest of Okinawa; other troops started west from Nago 
along the coast road to Awa. Here for the first time there was evidence that 
he troops were meeting not stragglers but outposts of an organized defense, 
for the marines became involved in a few small fire fights and met some 
organized rifle fire. They had reached Motobu Peninsula, which for some time 
was to be the focus of the III Amphibious Corps' effort. 

Probing the Motobu Defenses, j-13 April 

Motobu Peninsula was largely unknown territory to the Americans. Much 
of the interior was cloud-covered when the first photographs were taken ; later 
photographs failed to disclose important trails hidden under the trees; it was 
only after a Japanese map had been captured that the complete road network 
was made clear. To gain a better idea of the terrain of Motobu and the nature 
of the enemy positions, the 6th Marine Division conducted an intensive 
reconnaissance of the peninsula. 

The Reconnaissance Company on 7 April followed the road around the 
southern and western coasts of Motobu. Broken bridges forced the troops to 
leave the tanks behind and to proceed on foot. Just offshore five LCI's moved 
slowly along, firing into the hills and cliffs ahead of the troops. The company 
rounded the southwestern corner of Motobu and drew up abreast of the silent 
island of Sesoko. After exploring the deserted town of Suga the troops marched 
back. Not a shot had been fired at them. A prisoner of war said later that the 
Americans had been under constant observation but that the Japanese had let 
them pass, waiting for bigger game. 

The marines found the peninsula to be virtually a country in itself, inhabited 
by mountain farmers who dug out their plots on steep slopes. As Motobu 
broadened out, the area inland rose in a series of slopes topped by a sprawling, 
twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines called Yae-Take, the highest points 
of which were close to 1,500 feet. This mass was to prove the critical terrain 
feature of the peninsula. The lower ridges were heavily wooded; the upper 
areas were covered with grass and a few stunted trees. Hills bordered Motobu 
Peninsula on its western end, broken only where the Manna River ran through 
to the inlet on which Toguchi was located. On the northern side a small group 




FIRE BOMBING aided the advance in northern Okinawa. A Marine fighter plane (F4U) 
has flown low and dropped its fire bomb on an enemy-held slope in the rugged north. 



CONQUEST OF NORTHERN OKINAWA 



r 43 



of islands formed a protecting harbor; here the Japanese had established a 
midget submarine base, a torpedo station, and an operating point for suicide 
boats. The more important towns lay on the flatlands along the coast. Two towns 
in the interior were to prove tactically important: Manna, one and a half miles 
east of Toguchi, and Itomi, two miles northeast of Yae-Take. (See Map No. XIV.) 

From 8 to ii April the 29th Marines made efforts to fix the position of the 
enemy on Motobu. The 2d Battalion struck out to the north coast of the penin- 
sula but encountered only occasional Japanese soldiers. The other battalions of 
the 29th found a different situation in the area around Yae-Take. The 3d Bat- 
talion reached Toguchi on 10 April, despite a brief shelling en route by two 
enemy artillery pieces and heavy mortars which caused sixteen casualties. From 
Nago the 1st Battalion drove inland in a northwesterly direction to Itomi, over- 
coming a small ambush at the approaches to the town. The 1st and 3d Battal- 
ions, 29th Marines, were now separated from each other only by the 3-mile trail 
between Itomi and the Toguchi area; they had almost surrounded Yae-Take. 

Closing the ring around Yae-Take proved to be difficult. When the 3d Bat- 
talion of the 29th tried to push inland east from Toguchi, the marines were 
stopped in the narrow defiles in the Manna area by mortar and machine-gun 
fire. The 1st Battalion of the 29th picked its way from Itomi along a winding 
trail bordered by steep slopes. When the men were close to Manna and could 
see the ocean, Japanese mortars and machine guns opened up from the heights. 
The enemy fire split up the column, and the marines withdrew to Itomi, forcing 
their way past another ambush on the way back. 

By 11 April the intelligence officer of the 6th Marine Division could draw 
a great red oval on his map of Motobu and set up fairly accurately the outermost 
limits of enemy resistance. After further intense patrolling around Yae-Take 
on 12 and 13 April, during which the marines had frequent brushes with enemy 
groups, more information came in on the enemy's defenses and probable plan. 
Colonel Udo, apparently adopting a passive defense, was not sending his men 
out of the Yae-Take area; moreover, he was cautiously husbanding his troops 
and ammunition by not engaging the American forces until late in the after- 
noon, when it was too late for them to send an expedition into the hills. It was 
already apparent that he hoped to keep alive a center of guerilla resistance and 
to delay the Americans rather than destroy them. 

Colonel Udo's command post in a ravine on Yae-Take had excellent radio 
and telephone communications with strategically located outposts. The Japanese 
were well prepared for mountain warfare; they knew the trails and had horses, 



i 4 4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the best means of transportation over this terrain. The enemy was especially 
strong in automatic weapons, among them 25-mm. naval guns set in emplace- 
ments in the hill masses. Though the forces in the north were generally weak in 
equipment and supplies, the best of what was available had been concentrated in 
Motobu. With mortars and machine guns that were easily carried, with fixed 
25-mm. guns, and with at least a battery of field artillery, Colonel Udo might 
well have hoped to maintain for a considerable time his control of this mountain 
stronghold. 

Closing In on Yae-Take, 14-15 April 

Under orders to "destroy remaining enemy forces on Motobu," the 6th 
Marine Division on 13 April laid plans for the assault on the Yae-Take positions. 
The plan was for the 1st and 2d Battalions, 4th Marines, and the 3d Battalion, 
29th, all under the command of Col. Alan Shapley, to attack Yae-Take from the 
west. From the east the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 29th were to march from 
Itomi and occupy the high hills north of the Itomi-Manna road. A battle of 
maneuver and of opportunity was in prospect since units could not maintain con- 
tact. Company and battalion leaders would have to decide methods of approach 
up the ridges and narrow valleys, and to change those methods on their own 
initiative when necessary. The infantry would have to depend on its organic 
weapons; artillery and air strikes would prove more effective when the heights . 
were taken, but tanks were out of the question. 

The 6th Marine Division could now focus its effort on the Yae-Take defenses 
without fear of major diversion to its rear on northern Okinawa. On 13 April, 
after a fast trip along the west coast by foot, LVT, and truck, the 2d Battalion, 
22d Marines, reached Hedo Point at the north tip of Okinawa. On the way the 
marines had met virtually no opposition. Other elements of the 22d worked 
along the east coast of northern Okinawa. From bivouac areas on the coast, com- 
pany patrols penetrated deep into the mountainous interior of the island. The 
patrols reconnoitered the interior on trips lasting several days; they then returned 
to the coast, where they were picked up by LVT's. 

Nago, the site of the division command post, was now a nerve center; sup- 
plies for the operations were being brought to its harbor by LST's as the long 
road haul over the isthmus had been largely abandoned. Control of roads south 
of Nago had been transferred to Corps; division engineers were now assembling 
bridging material for use on Motobu. The rapid advance strained every resource 
of the shore parties, who had based their plans on the expectation that the divi- 



PUSHING TO YAE-TAKE, infantrymen of the 6th Marine Division pause on a mountain 
top while artillery shells a Japanese position. Meanwhile another group of marines (below) 
ma\es its way up a hillside, probing cave openings and watching for Japanese to show 
themselves. 



146 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



sion would be near the Hagushi beaches for the first fifteen days; supplies and 
gear, however, rolled ahead with the troops. 

On 14 April Colonel Shapley's three battalions attacked east toward Yae- 
Take, and by evening they had a firm hold on the first ridges. The marines met 
running opposition from small groups of machine gunners and riflemen. The 
enemy had good observation of the marines' movements; his machine guns and 
mortars covered the approach routes; and he followed his custom of allowing a 
few troops to pass across an open saddle and then firing on the group from be- 
hind. American officers were his favorite target. It was dangerous to hold a map, 
to wave a directing arm, or even to show a pistol rather than a carbine or rifle. 
Under the circumstances the companies deployed rapidly, and on many occasions 
the approach march became a series of assaults as fire teams engaged with enemy 
outposts. The marines, accustomed to grappling with solid defense lines on 
small islands, now had to use tactics of maneuver "right out of the book." 

More maneuvering on 15 April brought the marines into position for a 
final assault. On the same day the 3d Battalion of the 29th attacked east from 
the left (north) of the American line west of Yae-Take, over a ridge just below 
the heights. One company of the 3d Battalion remained in place, while another 
circled behind the ridge and assaulted it under covering fire of riflemen and 
machine gunners in the third company. After sharp hand-to-hand fighting 
the marines took the ridge. 

In the center of the line, the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, attacked another 
hill just west of Yae-Take. One company gained the crest but was driven 
off by enemy fire. This attack, however, protected the advance of the 
1st Battalion on the right (south). Companies A and C moved southeast all 
day across the hills and saddles. By nightfall of 15 April the battalion was 
entrenched along a curving ridge which faced Yae-Take. On its left rear 
(northwest) were Colonel Shapley's other battalions. Japanese soldiers were 
withdrawing to the heights of Yae-Take as the Americans contracted their area. 

Conquest of Motobu Peninsula, 16-18 April 

The attack on Yae-Take on 16 April was designed to take full advantage of 
the position gained by the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, on the previous day. While 
the 3d Battalion of the 29th Marines and the 2d Battalion of the 4th maintained 
pressure along a line west of Yae-Take, the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 4th 
were to attack north across their fronts to seize the crests. The 29th Marines, 



CONQUEST OF NORTHERN OKINAWA 



J 47 



moving southwest along the Itomi-Manna road, would be in position to attack 
the north part of the sprawling hill mass from the east. The ist Battalion, 22d 
Marines, then in reserve, was placed on the line on the 16th to close the gap 
on the south between the 4th and 29th Marines. 

Early on 16 April the ist Battalion of the 4th Marines, supported by planes, 
artillery, and naval guns, moved up the steep slopes of Yae-Take. Mortar 
observers in the foothills directed a heavy pounding on the areas ahead. Forward 
elements of the battalion climbed up the wooded slopes, apparently unobserved. 
As the marines moved out on steep bare rock 100 yards from the crest, knee 
mortar shells and hand grenades exploded over the face of the slope. Lacking 
cover, the troops pulled back into the woods. On the right (southeast) other 
troops of the battalion worked their way up a small valley under rifle fire ; then 
both forces made a charge that carried them over the summit and into the 
defending Japanese. By late afternoon the ist Battalion had secured the crest 
and the defenders were dead or dispersed. 

Below them on other ridges of Yae-Take the marines that evening could 
see Japanese hurrying about — sign of a counterattack forming. Heavy mortar 
and artillery fire protected the Americans while everyone available at battalion 
headquarters helped to rush ammunition up the mountain. At 1850 the expected 
charge came. The marines held their ground and killed about one hundred 
Japanese. That night the battalion was still there, although one company 
stretched precariously down the steep east and west slopes. The marines had 
little food and were exposed to enemy fire, but there was no enemy activity. 

The greater part of Yae-Take was still to be captured. While Colonel 
Shapley's troops were taking the southern and western ridges, the 29th Marines 
were moving toward Yae-Take from the northeast. Originally the 29th was to 
occupy hills north of the Itomi-Manna road, but the columns had been diverted 
to the southwest as they clashed with enemy patrols in the Yae-Take area. The 
mountain was well defended against attack from this direction. The 29th spent 
most of 16 and 17 April probing the enemy positions. Although on several 
occasions its patrols were driven back by storms of mortar fire, the 29th slowly 
pushed up the ridges. 

On 17 April the attack toward the northeast heights of Yae-Take was spear- 
headed by the ist Battalion, 29th Marines, commanded by Lt. Col. Jean W. 
Moreau. From his position Colonel Moreau could see the high ground from 
which the Japanese had fired on his company patrols. His objective was a moun- 
tain which rose sharply from a defile to the south and dropped off to the north in 



i 4 8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



steep but smooth grades to the Itomi-Manna road. When the Americans moved, 
the Japanese opened up from the mountain with machine guns and rifles ; their 
guns poured regular patterns of explosive shells on the Marine positions. 

Colonel Moreau decided to assault this mountain from the rear. On the 
morning of 17 April he swung one company around the ridge on the left (south) 
with the plan of climbing the almost sheer face of the mountain. He ordered two 
squads to march along a trail that led to the north of the mountain, then to 
return to the starting point and repeat the process. He hoped by this method to 
deceive the enemy as to the point of the attack. The stratagem succeeded. The 
attacking elements disappeared in the undergrowth. Colonel Moreau directed 
artillery and mortar fire on the enemy gun positions on the north face of the 
mountain. At noon a smoke grenade at the top announced that his troops had 
reached their objective. They had suffered one casualty. By nightfall two com- 
panies were entrenched on the summit and dominated much of the northern 
heights of Yae-Take. Artillery killed about ten Japanese during the assault, and 
five 25-mm. guns were taken intact. 

On the same day the 4th Marines swept north over Yae-Take. The enemy 
put up little effective resistance, and about 700 Japanese were killed as they 
withdrew before the 4th Marines over ridges covered by the fire of the holding 
forces. The marines found large stores, the command post of Colonel Udo, and 
the elaborate telephone switchboard through which he had controlled his once 
far-flung units. On 18 April the 4th and 29th Marines joined ranks and pushed 
north abreast across the Itomi-Manna road in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. 

The 6th Marine Division had broken the main enemy defenses north of the 
landing beaches, but enough Japanese remained to participate in organized 
guerilla warfare. Until the 6th moved south in May, the marines patrolled and 
reduced enemy pockets in Motobu and northern Okinawa. 

In its special action report the division summarized its experience in the 
campaign in northern Okinawa as follows : 

During that period the Division had moved 84 miles, seized 436 square miles of enemy 
territory, counted over 2,500 enemy bodies and captured 46 prisoners. Our losses during 
the period were 236 killed, 1,061 wounded, and 7 missing. During the rapid advance of the 
Division from Yontan Airdrome to the northern tip of Okinawa practically every type of 
maneuver was employed and all types of supply problems encountered. The successful execu- 
tion of the mission assigned gives conclusive evidence that a Marine Division is capable of 
extended operations ashore. 3 



3 6th Marine Division Special Actn Rpt, cited in Carleton, 6th Marine Div History, p. 55. 



CHAPTER VII 



The Capture of Ie Shima 

When III Amphibious Corps succeeded in making a rapid advance to the 
Motobu Peninsula and neutralizing the Japanese forces there, Tenth Army 
decided that early operations against Ie Shima were both feasible and desirable. 
Originally, both the capture of this island and the conquest of the northern part 
of Okinawa had been scheduled for Phase II of the campaign, but the possibility 
of an early seizure of Ie Shima had nevertheless been considered. On n April, 
after the successful development of operations in the north, Tenth Army merged 
completely Phases I and II and ordered the 77th Division to seize the island on 
16 April. The main purpose of the operation was the acquisition of additional 
airfields to support the assault on Okinawa and the strikes against the Japanese 
homeland. 1 

Ie Shima lies about three and one-half miles off the western tip of Motobu 
Peninsula and twenty miles north of the Hagushi beaches on Okinawa. It is oval 
in shape, about five miles long and two miles wide, the longer dimension lying 
east and west. Coral reefs fringe the entire island. Along the north and northwest 
coasts the land rises abruptly in steep sea cliffs containing hundreds of caves, 
but along the southern shores are numerous beaches from which the terrain 
slopes gently upward. The best of these for landing heavy equipment, designated 
as Red 3 and 4 by the invading forces, lay on the southeast coast southwest of the 
town of Ie. The approaches were clear to the reef, the beaches were sandy and 
free of obstacles, and a number of roads led inland over gently rising ground. 
Other beaches on the southeast coast, as well as those on the south and southwest 
coasts, were less satisfactory because of the character of the reef and other condi- 
tions offshore, the bluflfs behind the beaches, and the lack of roads. 

The island is spotted with small clumps of scrub trees, sparse areas of knee- 
high grass, and a few cultivated fields and patches of sugar cane. Almost its 

1 Tenth Army Opn Ord 4-45, 11 Apr 45; Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, p. 13; Tenth Army Actn 
Rpt, 3-0-4, 7-IV-I; 77th Div Actn Rpt Ie Shima, p. 1. 



150 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



entire interior is occupied by a plateau approximately 165 feet in altitude, broken 
on the east by Iegusugu Mountain, which rises abruptly for about 600 feet above 
the level terrain and was appropriately called "the Pinnacle" by the soldiers. 
South of the Pinnacle lies the town of Ie, consisting of about 300 houses. 
Together, the plateau and the Pinnacle were the distinctive terrain features of 
Ie Shima and also the most important from a military point of view. Iegusugu 
was surrounded by clear fields of fire, and from it one could see the entire island. 
On the plateau the Japanese had established three landing strips, which together 
formed the pattern of the Roman numeral XI. No obstructions interfered with 
the approaches to these mile-long strips; aircraft had unlimited expanses of 
open water over which to gain altitude. With its pinnacle and oval plateau, 
Ie Shima resembled a huge, immovable aircraft carrier. 2 

Plans and Preparations of the 'Enemy 

In November 1944 only the $oth Airfield Battalion was stationed on Ie 
Shima, 3 but toward the end of the year the Japanese began to make intensive 
preparations for defense. The 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry Unit, 44th Independent 
Mixed Brigade — called the Igawa Unit after its commander, Major Igawa — was 
sent back from Motobu Peninsula to Ie where it had been stationed originally. 
As part of the ^id Army plan to convert members of special units into ground 
combat troops, the 50th Airfield Battalion, which was composed largely of 
veterans of Manchuria, became the 50th Specially Established Infantry Battalion. 
An Okinawan conscripted labor battalion, 580 strong, arrived at Ie in February 
1945. The airfield battalion had originally been scheduled to return to Okinawa 
to work there after helping to destroy the Ie strips, but it was caught on Ie Shima 
by the invasion and took part in its defense. 4 Likewise, only 3,000 of the 8,000 
civilians were evacuated to Okinawa, Allied air attacks having destroyed nearly 
all the shipping in the Okinawa group of islands. 

These forces, approximately 2,000 in number and aided by hundreds of 
civilians, spent the first quarter of 1945 fortifying Ie Shima. Expending human 
labor on a vast scale, they made pillboxes out of houses and tombs, honeycombed 
ridges and reverse slopes with trenches, tunnels, and emplacements, and con- 

2 Capt. Paul R. Leach, Operational History of 77th Inf Div on Ie Shima (hereafter cited as Leach, 
77th Div Ie Shima History), pp. 2-3; 77th Div G-2 Estimate of the Situation ICEBERG, 16 Jan 45. 
s 77th Div G-2 Summary No. 7, 28 Apr 45. 

4 Tenth Army Transl No. 230, 6 Jul 45 : 32.1l Army Ord No. 113, 21 Mar 45. 




IE SHIMA, looking east over jjth Division landing beaches, toward the Pinnacle. Marked 
are Green Beach I, where the ist and 2d Battalions, 306th, landed, and Red 1 and Red 2, 
landing beaches of the 3d and ist Battalions, 305th, respectively. Heaviest fighting too\ 
place on the eastern end of the island (below), where the town of Ie can be seen between 
southern beaches and the Pinnacle. 




152 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



cealed rifle pits and machine-gun and mortar positions in hedgerows. The 
numerous natural caves were strengthened by tunnels and holes dug into the 
limestone rock. Some caves were three stories deep and had outlets for firing 
positions on each level. Mortar emplacements were made twenty feet deep ; cave 
mouths were fitted with sliding steel doors. 

Early in March the Japanese command on Okinawa, believing that Ie Shima 
could not be held for more than a few days, ordered that all airfields on the 
island be destroyed by the end of the month "because of tactical requirements." 6 
Thorough demolitions followed. The runways were ditched and blasted and 
the entire central area sown with mines, as defense against possible airborne 
attack. The enemy showed his usual resourcefulness ; the mines included bombs 
rigged variously as pressure-detonating or controlled charges, wood and terra 
cotta antitank and antipersonnel charges, and fougasse mines made from drums 
of gasoline. 

The Japanese defense plan was based on an elaborate attempt to trick the 
Americans. The defensive positions were concentrated in and around the town 
and the Pinnacle because the terrain and the structures there were well adapted 
for fortification. Consequently, the central east sector of Ie became by far the 
strongest area; the western part of the island was merely outposted and mined. 
Furthermore, the best landing beaches were near the southeast end of the island 
and were commanded by the strong positions in the Ie-Iegusugu area. The 
Japanese hoped to lure the invaders in over these exposed southeastern beaches 
and then to destroy them by intense fire from hundreds of concealed positions 
in the Pinnacle and the town of Ie. They tried to deceive the Americans into 
thinking that the good southeastern beaches were not defended while the poorer 
beaches were heavily defended; if the ruse succeeded and the Americans 
landed on the southeast, the Japanese could exact a heavy price. Consequently, 
when American reconnaissance parties operated off the southeastern beaches, 
they were not fired on and could see no indication of the enemy; one American 
actually strolled along the beach without drawing fire. Pilots flying 100 feet over 
the area saw no sign of activity. But on the less desirable southern and south- 
western beaches the situation was reversed. Here, in accordance with the 
Japanese strategem, beach reconnaissance parties drew considerable small-arms 
fire from the shore. 7 



5 77th Div Actn Rpt Ie Shima, pp. 8-9, 50-52. 

6 Tenth Army Transl No. 225, 5 Jul 45: ^2d Army Ord No. 111, about Mar 45. 

7 77th Div Actn Rpt, p. 5. 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



r 53 



American Plans and Preparations 

The ruse failed. The 77th Division star! relied on photo interpretation and 
map study, which provided an accurate means of plotting the development of 
defensive installations on Ie. After studying photo intelligence reports of 1 March, 
the G-2 of the 77th stated on 15 March that the nature of the defenses on le 
made a landing on the southeast undesirable, since such a landing would en- 
counter maximum initial resistance: 

Therefore, from a consideration of both terrain and enemy action, a landing over the 
beaches on the southwest end of the island should meet with the greatest initial success. An 
attack from the west enters the back door of the defensive organization east of the airport. 
However, the capture of key terrain and the best beaches for bringing in heavy equipment 
will be delayed. 8 

Plan of Attack^ 

This analysis set the pattern of the attack. General Bruce, in a field order 
issued 12 April 1945, ordered the 305th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) to 
land on Red 1 and 2 on the south coast of Ie Shima on 16 April and the 306th 
RCT to invade Ie simultaneously over Green Beach at the southwest end of the 
island. While the 305th advanced eastward to seize additional landing beaches, 
the 306th was to swing around on the 305th's left (north) flank and overrun the 
airfield. Together the two regiments would reduce the strong points at the 
eastern end of the island. The troops would be supported by the 105-mm. 
howitzers of the 305th and ox>2d Field Artillery Battalions and by the 155-mm. 
guns of the 306th, which on the day before the landing were to be emplaced on 
Minna Shima, a sand islet four miles south of Ie.' J |(See Map No. XV. )| 

This plan was adopted over the objections of supply officers of the 77th, who 
pointed out that reef conditions of? the selected beaches would prevent the use 
of landing craft except for a short time at high tide. The surfaces of the wide 
coral reef offshore were so rough and broken that nothing but LVT's and 
DUKW's could negotiate them. 10 It was planned, however, to unload only a 
minimum of supplies over these beaches and to unload the heavy equipment over 
the more desirable beaches farther east — Red 3 and 4 — once they had been 
secured by the 305th RCT. 11 

8 77th Div G-2 Estimate, 15 Mar 45, App. IV: Discussion of Ie Shima Defenses; see also G-2 Estimate, 
16 Jan 45, 26 Feb 45, 14 Apr 45. 

9 77th Div FO No. 26, 12 Apr 45. 

10 77th Div G-2 Estimate, 16 Jan 45. 

11 77th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 9-10, 42-44. 



J 54 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Although the Japanese failed to lure the invaders onto the best-defended 
beaches, they did succeed, through excellent camouflage, in concealing their 
strength on Ie. During early April the 77th received a series of reports from air 
observers which indicated that Ie was almost deserted. On 6 April General 
Bruce, explaining his plan to General Buckner, wrote as follows: 

. . . original estimate of enemy is considerably reduced. It is planned to take entire 
division to target area; secure island quickly with minimum forces, less heavy equipment. 
. . . This plan places sufficient forces in immediate target to quickly and unquestionably 
complete mission with minimum casualties. 12 

Actually, the entire division was not available to General Bruce. The 2d 
Battalion of the 305th Infantry was garrisoning the Kerama Islands. The 307th 
RCT was being held in readiness by Tenth Army to feint a landing on the 
southern beaches of Okinawa in connection with an attack planned for 19 April. 
All but the 1st BLT of the 307th, however, was made available to General Bruce 
during the operation. The 77th had suffered some casualties in the Keramas, but 
the number was doubled by Kamikaze attacks on division shipping during the 
early part of April. On 2 April, during a night retirement, the 77th Division 
convoy was caught twelve miles south of Kerama Retto by a flight of Japanese 
suicide planes which attacked from the clouds. Four ships were crash-dived 
before fighters and antiaircraft drove off the enemy craft. 13 

Preparations for the Assault 

In preparation for the landings, units of the Fifth Fleet bombarded Ie Shima 
intermittently from 25 March through 16 April. Systematic bombardment of 
the island began on 13 April when the battleship Texas, two cruisers, and four 
destroyers fired on targets throughout the island, concentrating on the strong 
points in the east. That evening six rocket LSM's began a night interdiction and 
harassing patrol of Ie, firing rockets and 40-mm. shells and executing illuminat- 
ing missions. A similar schedule was followed on the 14th; on the 15th the day- 
light bombardment of Ie was canceled to prepare for other required dispositions 
of the fire support ships. 14 

During the first ten days of April, Navy fighters and light bombers attacked 
caves, buildings, and installations on Ie Shima. After a spell of bad weather from 
10 to 12 April, the air strikes were intensified. During the period 13-15 April 

12 77th Div G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 3, 7 Apr 45; see also Msgs No. 9, 7 Apr 45, and No. 23, 13 Apr 45. 

13 77th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 7-8. 

14 The account of preliminary support operations is taken from Comdr Amph Group 4 PACFLT (CTF 
53), Actn Okinawa Gunto, 20 Jul 45, Pt. V. 




ROCKETS OVER IE SHIMA, fired by a Navy airplane toward the Pinnacle. Beyond, to 
the south, are Ie and Government House, almost obscured by smoi^e of preinvasion sojtemng- 
up. Dar\ area {upper right) is nose of plane. 



i 5 6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



54 strikes comprising 292 sorties were flown; 830 rockets, 35 tons of bombs, and 
full loads of .50-caliber ammunition struck all targets that could be located by ob- 
servation and by study of aerial photographs. All remaining emplacements 
around Ie were neutralized and two aircraft found on the field were destroyed. 

Under the cover afforded by these air and surface strikes, Navy underwater 
demolition teams conducted daylight reconnaissance of all beaches on Ie during 
13 and 14 April. Except for light and inaccurate enemy fire on the western 
beaches, the swimmers met no opposition. The teams provided the earliest first- 
hand information on Ie; although their observations were made from the water 
line, their reports on beaches and terrain immediately inland proved to be 
accurate. 

On the night of 12-13 April the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion of 
the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, landed on Minna Island and secured it without 
resistance. On 15 April, the 305th, c>02d, and 306th Field Artillery Battalions went 
into position on Minna to support the Ie operations. Each battalion quickly 
registered on base points and check points established on the target. Three cub 
planes, operating from a field constructed within a few hours after the landing, 
conducted registration missions for the battalions. There were no preparatory 
or neutralizing fires, however, until the attack began on the following day. 10 

It had been the enemy's original plan to cover Ie Shima with his own artillery 
on Okinawa. During the operations on Motobu the marines overran a battery of 
two 150-mm. guns, complete with prime movers and ammunition, near the west 
coast of the peninsula. The guns were in a steep draw which opened directly 
toward Ie Shima. They were to be fired from the mouths of caves and to be 
pulled back when not in use. Late in March, General Ushijima had ordered the 
naval detachment in charge of the guns to prevent American use of the airfields 
on Ie; the two guns completely covered the island. 16 By the time of the invasion 
of Ie, the situation had been neatly reversed; the enemy had lost his guns, and 
Ie Shima was exposed to American medium and heavy land artillery as well as 
to the powerful guns of the Pacific Fleet. 

Invasion of Ie Shima, 16-ij April 

Two battleships, four cruisers, and seven destroyers of the Fifth Fleet opened 
up a heavy bombardment of Ie Shima at dawn of 16 April. LCI's swept the 

15 77th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 16-17. 

16 Tenth Army Transl No. 233, 6 Jul 45: S2d Army Ord No. 117, 24 Mar 45. 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



157 



landing beaches with rockets and mortar shells. Thousands of rounds of 40-mm., 
20-mm., and .50-caliber ammunition arched into the beaches from support craft 
and from guide boats escorting the first landing waves. Planes bombed and 
rocketed the island and dropped tanks of napalm on and behind the beaches. 
Billowing clouds of smoke and dust rose from the flaming napalm, exploding 
ammunition dumps, and burning gasoline stores. Within a few minutes Ie 
Shima was blacked out. Puffs of white smoke against the gray pall over the 
island showed where the rocket and mortar ships were preparing the beaches. 
A Japanese soldier wrote in his diary: "After fierce air and naval bombardment, 
the enemy began his landing in front of the 4th Company, using amphibian 
tractors. Their fire power is so great we dared not show our heads." 17 

Debarkation of the landing craft from the LST's went smoothly. By 0650 
boat waves were forming in the assembly area. Soon afterward amphibian tanks, 
followed by waves of amphibian tractors, roared toward the landing beaches 
from the line of departure 3,600 yards offshore. The weather was clear and 
bright and the sea was calm. The tanks and tractors moved past the cruisers, 
destroyers, and LCI's to the smoking beaches. As the first waves neared the 
shore, support fire was directed inland. 18 

At 0758 — two minutes ahead of schedule — the forward elements of the 1st 
BLT of the 305th landed on the southern coast of Ie directly south of the airfield. 
Three minutes later the 3d BLT of the 305th started landing on a separate beach 
600 yards to the left (west). The troops pushed rapidly inland over high dunes. 
On reaching a road which ran along high ground 400 yards north of the beaches, 
the 1st Battalion swung east. From this high ground to the town of Ie there 
were extensive mine fields which, although hurriedly laid and crudely camou- 
flaged, slowed the movement of amphibian tanks and self-propelled guns. The 
3d BLT moved inland and then swung east toward Ie, its left flank passing just 
south of the easternmost air strip. 

At 0807 the first waves of the 306th RCT landed on a 600-yard-wide beach 
at the southwest end of Ie, with the 1st BLT on the left (north). Within three 

17 77th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 26, 21 Apr 45. 

18 The account of the landings and ensuing action on Ie Shima is based on the following sources: Leach, 
77th Div Ie Shima History; 77th Div Actn Rpt Ie Shima, a superior after-action report; G-2 Periodic Rpts, 
Summaries, Jnls, Msg Files; G-3 Periodic Rpts, Jnls, Msg Files; Tenth Army Jnl and Msg Files, 15-22 
Apr 45. Particularly valuable sources are: (1) Memo CG 77th Div for CG Tenth Army, in 77th Div 
G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 32, 20 Apr 45, in which General Bruce discusses the problems of the Ie Shima 
campaign; (2) Memo CG 77th Div for Capt Leach, 26 Oct 45, in which General Bruce answers questions 
submitted to him by the 77th Div historian. 




INVASION OF IE SHIMA was well prepared but met considerable opposition. Assault 
boats (above) approach the island as supporting shell fire is lifted from the beaches and 
moved inland. Eight hundred yards inland from Red Beach 2 were these cave positions 
( below ), around which the 305th RCT, JJth Division, was engaged in an infantry-demolition 
fight until nightfall of 16 April. 




CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



J 59 



hours the assault battalions advanced 2,000 yards inland to the western edges of 
the airfield. The 3d BLT of the 306th completed its landing at 1015 and, as 
the reserve battalion, patrolled the western end of the island. After mopping 
up small groups of Japanese in caves and entrenchments, the 3d BLT resumed 
its advance to the east, echeloned to the left rear of the 1st BLT of the 306th. 

The rapid advance of the 306th continued during the afternoon of the 16th. 
The troops quickly overran the airfield. Although the open, level expanse of 
the runways offered clear fields of fire for the defenders, the only opposition 
came at the east end of the airfield, where American troops and amtracks 
knocked out several pillboxes. After pushing on regardless of phase lines, in 
accordance with division orders, the 306th Infantry by nightfall had gained 
5,500 yards for the day and had overrun about two-thirds of the length of the 
island which lay in its zone of action. The 306th, with three battalions abreast, 
held a line which began at a point just north of Ie, about 600 yards from the 
base of Iegusugu, and ran northwest to the north coast. The 306th advanced 
so rapidly during the day that a gap developed between its right (south) and 
the left (north) flank of the 305th. To cover this area by fire and prevent attack 
from the east, Company K of the 306th took a position on three Japanese-built 
bunkers about 300 yards east of the airfield. 
Slow Progress on the South Coast 

After advancing inland and wheeling to the east in the morning, the 305th 
RCT attacked east in a zone parallel to the coast, extending about 800 yards 
inland. Progress during the afternoon was slow. The enemy delivered rifle and 
machine-gun fire from coral emplacements west of the town of Ie and from 
caves and fortified tombs in the hillside below the plateau. It was mainly an 
infantry-engineer fight; armor and self-propelled guns were held up by mines, 
including many buried 500-pound aerial bombs. By nightfall the 1st Battalion 
had advanced only 800 yards from its beachhead; the 3d Battalion, which made 
the wide turn on the left of the regiment, had moved about 1,800 yards. 

During the night of 16 April the enemy launched a coordinated attack on 
the 3d Battalion of the 305th. The attack came with suicidal recklessness. The 
Japanese were supported by mortars and 70-mm. guns, and were armed with 
small arms, sharpened stakes, bags of hand grenades, and literally hundreds 
of satchel charges, some of which had been improvised from mortar shells. 
Japanese worked up to the perimeters in small groups and either threw their 
satchel charges at close range or blew themselves up in an effort to take Amer- 
icans with them. Some of the human bombs were successful, but most of the 



i6o 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Japanese were killed before they came within effective range. One American 
had his arm broken by the flying leg of a Japanese soldier who had blown him- 
self up. After hours of wild fighting in the dark the enemy withdrew, leaving 
152 of his dead in and around the 3d Battalion's position. Meanwhile the 1st 
Battalion of the 305th RCT fought off a number of small harassing attacks, but 
the 306th had a relatively quiet night. 

The next day, 17 April, the 305th resumed its attack in an attempt to seize 
the high ground behind Red Beaches 3 and 4. Following preparations by the 
two light artillery battalions on Minna Shima and by one light battalion which 
had landed on Ie, the 1st and 3d Battalions pushed off to the east. Apparently 
the enemy had concentrated his defenses in front of the 3d Battalion sector, 
for the 1st Battalion, moving along the coast, met only scattered opposition 
and made substantial gains during the morning. By noon the 1st Battalion had 
advanced another 800 yards and had partially secured the area behind Red 
Beaches 3 and 4. 

The 3d Battalion of the 305th quickly seized high ground in its sector, 
about 800 yards short of the town, after a brief fire fight during which Lt. Col. 
Edward Chalgren, Jr., the battalion commander, was wounded. The attack 
was slowed down by heavy machine-gun fire coming from caves in the coral 
slopes on the left (north) side of the regiment's zone of action. A flanking 
movement followed by infantry-tank action reduced this enemy position, and 
the advance continued. Although intermittent mortar, rifle, and machine-gun 
fire made progress of the troops during the rest of the morning slow, by 1245 
the 3d Battalion had generally secured the ground behind the central beaches 
and had reached the immediate outskirts of Ie. 

During the 17th the 306th Infantry held its lines in place to enable the 
305th to come abreast and to assist its advance by fire. The regiment probed the 
enemy's defenses around Iegusugu with combat patrols. The enemy appeared 
to have anchored his right (north) flank on Iegusugu and to have extended 
his line generally southeast to the coast. His strongest defenses seemed to lie 
south of the Pinnacle in Ie town; his defense in depth here was holding the 
305th to small gains. 

Entrance of the 307th Infantry 

When the 305th met increasing resistance on 16 April, General Bruce 
decided to commit the 307th Infantry on the beaches southwest of Ie. Several 
considerations underlay this decision — one of them the supply situation. The 
whole plan of attack assumed that the superior beaches to the east of the 305th's 



FIGHTING TOWARD IE, American troops were held up close to the town by strong 
Japanese positions. The morning of iy April the 305th Infantry, JJth Division, paused 
while artillery pounded Japanese positions in the western outskirts (smo\e-covered area). 
At the same time the right flan\ of the 305th was attempting to reduce these enemy pillboxes 
(below) along road parallel to Red Beaches ] and 4. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



landing beaches would be seized quickly in order to land tanks and other heavy 
equipment. Moreover, with the capture of the airfield the first day it was advisable 
to land heavy aviation engineering equipment as soon as possible. General 
Bruce's main reason for committing the 307th, however, was his desire to 
capture the island as quickly as possible. Reports indicated that about 1,000 of the 
enemy had withdrawn to the Pinnacle area for a last stand. General Bruce knew 
that the 307th might be available to him for only a day or two, being scheduled 
to make a demonstration off the beaches at the southern end of Okinawa on 
19 April. At 1615 on 16 April, General Bruce asked General Buckner for two 
assault battalions of the 307th, promising to return them by noon of the 18th 
"or earlier" if they were needed for the demonstration. General Buckner 
assented. 

The 2d and 3d Battalions of the 307th landed on the beaches southwest of 
Ie during the morning of 17 April, with the 3d Battalion on the east. The plan 
called for these two battalions to attack abreast northeast toward Ie. They were 
to pass through the 1st Battalion of the 305th Infantry, which was holding the 
ground inland to the west of the two beaches over which the 307th landed. The 
attack was to cut across the front of the 3d Battalion of the 305th, which would 
provide supporting fire from its flank position on the outskirts of Ie. 

The 307th jumped off at 1300. Both battalions made about 400 yards in two 
hours against steadily increasing resistance. The troops had to move uphill over 
open ground. From his positions on the Pinnacle and on intervening high 
ground, the enemy had perfect observation of their movements. The strongest 
Japanese positions, aside from those in or around the Pinnacle, were along 
a prominent ridge and in a small rise on the ridge topped by a large concrete 
building, about 700 yards southwest of Iegusugu. These positions came to be 
known as "Bloody Ridge" and "Government House Hill." 

The 307th made limited gains during the afternoon of 17 April. In the 
town the 3d Battalion came up against an organized position protected by wire 
entanglements and mines. A house-to-house fight ensued. The mined and debris- 
filled streets prevented the self-propelled guns from coming up in support; 
when engineers tried to clear the way, the enemy opened up on them with 
machine guns. The 3d Battalion moved east several hundred yards along gently 
sloping ground south of the town. 

By late afternoon both battalions were receiving heavy mortar and small- 
arms fire from dominating ground ahead of them. The numerous mine fields 
slowed the movement of self-propelled artillery, and since tanks had not yet 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



163 



been landed the foot soldiers and the engineers bore the brunt of the close-in 
action. Division artillery kept the rear enemy areas under attack. Elements of 
the 307th fought their way to a point 600 yards south of Government House 
Hill, but, being unable to consolidate their position for the night so close to 
Bloody Ridge, they withdrew to more favorable terrain about 400 yards inland 
from the beach. Casualties were mounting. Hopes for a quick victory were 
fading. 

Stalemate at Bloody Ridge, 18-ig April 

After receiving an urgent request from the assistant division commander, 
Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Randle, for retention of the 307th RCT on Ie Shima to 
avoid serious delay in its capture, General Bruce secured permission from Tenth 
Army to keep the regiment. The plan for 18 April called for continuation of 
the attack by the 307th, supported by the 305th, against the defense in depth 
established by the enemy in the town south of the Pinnacle. The 306th Infantry, 
pivoting on its right (south) flank, was to attack toward, the Pinnacle from the 
west and north. Although this move would continue the encirclement of the 
enemy's main positions around legusugu, the main effort was to be the attack 
from the south and west. For two days the 305th and 307th were to batter in 
vain against Bloody Ridge south of the Pinnacle. In the fierce fighting south 
and west of the Pinnacle during 18 and 19 April, the 77th Division was to meet 
the stiffest opposition in its experience and to sustain the bulk of its casualties 
on Ie Shima. 

The enemy detachments concealed behind American lines had tragic conse- 
quences for Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, as well as for many troops of the 
77th. On 18 April Pyle was on his way to the front in a jeep, accompanied by a 
regimental commander. At the outskirts of Ie, a Japanese machine gun hidden 
in the terraced coral slopes along the side of the road sent both men into a ditch 
for cover. When Pyle raised his head a few moments later, another burst caught 
him full in the temple just below the rim of his helmet, killing him instantly. 
Only after three hours of intense patrol action was the enemy position destroyed. 
Pyle was buried in the 77th Division's cemetery on Ie under a crude marker 
which the Division later replaced by a monument. The inscription reads: "At 
this spot the 77th Infantry Division lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945." 
Attack^ of 18 April 

The 306th Infantry moved out at 0730 on 18 April and the 307th an hour 
later. The 2d Battalion of the 306th on the right (south) and the 3d Battalion 



164 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



on the left met initially little opposition as they pushed generally east in their 
zones of action north of Iegusugu. The 307th Infantry, however, met heavy 
resistance from the beginning. From the rubble of Ie and from positions dug 
into Bloody Ridge the enemy fought back with heavy mortar, machine-gun, 
and rifle fire. Infantrymen, closely backed by engineer blasting teams, often had 
to fight their way into the enemy positions and clean them out with grenades 



and bayonets. (See Map No. XVI.) 



The 2d Battalion, 307th, had especially hard going, for it was moving directly 
into the strongest enemy positions on Bloody Ridge. At first it was planned 
that the 3d Battalion of the 305th would follow the 2d of the 307th and take 
over the attack, and the 3d actually moved to a position behind it. Resistance 
was so strong, however, that the plan was altered; the 3d Battalion was recalled 
and sent in on the left (north) of the 307th to attack east toward Iegusugu. The 
battalion was also to maintain contact with the 306th, which was swinging 
around north of the Pinnacle. 

After a heavy preparation by the artillery on Minna Shima, the 3d Battalion, 
305th, attacked at 1130 on an 800-yard front. A house-to-house fight ensued 
amid the rubble of Ie. "Every street became a phase line," one observer reported. 19 
The necessity of forming a connecting link over the wide area between the 306th 
and the 307th made the fight harder. Artillery was ineffective against many 
enemy positions and could not be used freely because other friendly units were 
so close by. Self-propelled guns were held up by mines and debris in the narrow 
streets. After working about halfway through the northwestern section of the 
town, the troops withdrew to a more secure position on the outskirts, their right 
(south) flank then being 500 yards west of Government House Hill, and their 
left (north) flank 700 yards west of the base of Iegusugu. They had made a 
net gain of only about 350 yards for the day. 

When the attack of the 307th came almost to a standstill directly south of 
Government House Hill about midday of 18 April, it was decided to send the 
3d Battalion of the 307th around to the right, where it could attack toward the 
northeast in the eastern section of the town. The Americans hoped that resistance 
east of Government House Hill would be less severe than that encountered 
south of it, and such proved to be the case. The 3d Battalion made moderate 
progress and advanced to a point 300 yards north of the village Agarii-mae. 
Medium tanks and self-propelled guns covered the gap that developed between 

19 Leach, 77th Div Ie Shima History, p. 17. 




DEATH OF ERNIE PYLE, American war correspondent, too\ place while he was observ- 
ing the fighting on Ie Shima. Above he is pictured talking to a Marine infantryman on 
Okinawa a few hours after its invasion. After the close of the Ryu\yus campaign Brig. 
Gen. Edwin R. Handle, assistant commander of the jyth Division, unveiled a monument 
(below) over Pyle's grave. 





IE AND THE SOUTHERN BEACHES viewed from directly over the Pinnacle. 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



167 



the two battalions of the 307th. These weapons put direct fire into caves, pill- 
boxes, and enemy gun positions in the town of Ie and the Pinnacle. They could 
not be moved close to the enemy positions, however; deadly machine-gun and 
mortar fire held the infantry back and left the armor vulnerable to suicide attacks 
by Japanese armed with satchel charges, who hid in holes until the tanks and 
guns came within range. 

In order to protect the right (southeast) flank of the 307th Infantry, the 
1st Battalion, 305th, moved into position on the right of the 3d Battalion, 307th. 
The 1 st Battalion, having passed to the control of the 307th at 1500 on 18 April, 
attacked to the north abreast of it, covering a zone from the flank position of 
the 307th to the beach. Meeting little more than scattered sniper fire, forward 
elements had moved about 1,000 yards by the end of the day. This battalion 
had advanced farther than the 307th, however, and in order to protect the latter's 
right (east) flank it withdrew to a position about 600 yards east of the village 
of Agarii-mae. 

In its advance north of Iegusugu the 306th made good progress during the 
day, despite almost continual mortar fire from positions on the Pinnacle from 
which the enemy had unlimited observation of all movements. The regiment 
pivoted on the 2d Battalion, which in its attack toward the base of the Pinnacle 
had by the end of the day occupied positions as close as 300 yards to its base 
on the northwest side. In the center of the regimental zone the 1st Battalion 
encountered four pillboxes, which were finally reduced by hand-placed charges. 
The 3d Battalion, moving along the north coast, reduced enemy positions in 
caves in the bluffs after hours of fighting at close range. The 306th could have 
pressed farther east against scattered groups of the enemy, but instructions were 
received to cease advance in order to avoid fire which was supporting the 305th 
and 307th Regiments. By the end of the day the line of the 306th extended from 
the northeast base of Iegusugu to the northeast coast of the island. 

Crisis at the Beaches 

Meanwhile a crisis had developed at the beaches. From the very beginning 
of the operation supplies for the troops on Ie Shima had been a touch-and-go 
affair. As had been expected, the initial assault beaches were suitable only for 
DUKW's, LVT's, and small boats, and even then for only a few hours at high 
tide. The superior beaches southwest of the town of Ie, Red 3 and 4, were not 
secured on the 16th as planned; reconnaissance parties were driven off by heavy 
enemy fire. It was only after the 307th landed on Red 3 and 4 on 17 April that 
unloading of heavy equipment could be undertaken. The first cargo was not 



le Shima - Typical Defem 
On Face Of legusugu Pinnacle 




This diagram of a typical defense system on the face of legusugu Pinnacle was adapted 
from a sketch appearing in CINCPAC-CINCPOA Weekly Intelligence , Volume 2, Number 5, 
13 August 1945. The diagram does not show all the defensive positions in the area depicted 
and is designed only to indicate the method by which the enemy attained mobility even in 
fighting from positions underground. In describing this position the bulletin states: 

About 50 yards south of the approach road was the camouflaged entrance to a typical 
tunnel system within the hill. The entrance was a square log-shored shaft 30 feet deep. 




LEGEND 
A North-south road 

B Approach road, booby- 
trapped and mined 

C Barbed wire 

D Entrance to tunnel system 

E Antitank trench, 15 feet 
deep 

Numbers indicate various parts 
of tunnel system: 

1^4 Tunnel entrance 

5-6 Auxiliary shaft 

7 Main tunnel 

8-11 Cave entrance 





mi, 



A smaller curved shaft which came to the surface about 15 feet away was probably designed 
for ventilation purposes. 

The main tunnel to the hill installations ran from this shaft, under the road to the first 
of a series of caves approximately 100 feet from the shaft entrance. This tunnel was from four 
to five feet high and three feet wide. Walls were reinforced with logs six to eight inches in 
diameter. Loose coral rock on the ceilings was held in place by logs. The tunnel apparently was 
used for ammunition storage as well as communication. 



170 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



on shore until the evening of 17 April. For the first two days of the operation 
the supply level maintained by the shore parties was only barely adequate. 20 

The difficulties were by no means over when Red 3 and 4 were captured. 
From his positions in Ie, on Bloody Ridge, and on the Pinnacle, the enemy could 
put mortar fire on the beaches to the south and on the area directly behind them. 
During the night of 17-18 April numerous enemy infiltration attempts sup- 
ported by mortar and machine-gun fire had to be repulsed by shore party engi- 
neers. On the 18th the enemy seriously delayed the organization of the beach 
by firing on the exit roads. The beach became congested with supplies. A platoon 
of the 233d Engineers had to abandon its shore duties and clear a proposed dump 
area of snipers who were harassing unloading operations. Late on the 18th 
unloading was temporarily halted because of the enemy fire. The building up of 
adequate supply levels was again delayed. 

Not until 21 April was the eastern exit free of Japanese fire. In the meantime 
shore parties continued to improve the beach, establish water-supply points, land 
tanks and other heavy equipment, and move supplies to beach dumps. Although 
superior to the other beaches, Red 4 was far from ideal. The deep sand made it 
necessary for tractors and bulldozers to tow in wheeled vehicles. Until two cause- 
way sets were established on 20 April, LST's had to come in through a narrow, 
crooked channel, and there were many vexing delays. Unloading schedules were 
also disrupted when sudden squalls arose and when frequent Kamikaze attacks 
forced ships to disperse and maneuver. 

Heavy expenditures of ammunition by artillery, tanks, and self-propelled 
mounts (SPM's) as they hammered at strong positions on Ie necessitated selec- 
tive unloading of ships; considerable cargo had to be moved in the holds of ships 
to get at the ammunition reserves. Despite temporary shortages, however, the 
combat troops received the needed supplies. By 24 April, the 77th Division shore 
party, in addition to supplying the division, had unloaded 14 LST's carrying 
18,331 measurement tons. 
Reversal at Bloody Ridge, 19 April 

On 19 April, as on the two previous days, the plan called for the main effort 
to be directed against the strongest Japanese positions on Bloody Ridge in an 
attack by the 305th and 307th from the southwest. No attack was ordered for the 
306th because any advance might bring it under naval gunfire supporting the 

80 See CTF 53 Actn Rpt, V-F-3. 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA I7 1 

main attack; the lines of the 306th would remain substantially unchanged for 
the day. 

The continuation of this attack after failure on the two preceding days was 
due largely to the critical situation at the beaches; American forces were attacking 
toward Bloody Ridge and the Pinnacle, with Red Beaches 3 and 4 a few hundred 
yards to the south. The protection of these beaches was the decisive element of 
the tactical plan. The rapid establishment of Ie airfield was highly important 
in the strategic concept of the Ryukyus campaign, and equipment for the airfield, 
as well as for a badly needed air warning service, was coming in over these 
exposed beaches. General Bruce stated in a message to General Buckner : 'T know 
emergency exists for air warning service and airfields. My tactical plans for 17, 
18, 19 April based on necessity of securing Red Beaches 3 and 4 for unloading 
garrison troops even though not required for my supplies and even though other 
ground maneuver would have been preferable." General Bruce believed that the 
enemy might stage a banzai attack on the vital beach area if only a holding force 
were left south of Bloody Ridge while the main thrust was delivered against the 



Japanese from a different direction. 21 (See Map No. XVil.) 



After a half-hour artillery preparation, three battalions attacked at 0900 on 
19 April. The 3d Battalion, 305th Infantry, moved east against the northern part 
of Ie; the 2d and 3d Battalions, 307th, attacked north from their positions south 
of Bloody Ridge, moving abreast with the 3d Battalion on the east. By massing 
all the 81-mm. mortars and heavy machine guns of its 2d and 3d Battalions and 
those of the 1st Battalion, 305th, the 307th built up a heavy base of fire for the 
advancing assault troops. The infantrymen along the line fought their way from 
one strong point to another in a series of bloody skirmishes marked by hand-to- 
hand combat. From the high ground the enemy poured mortar and small-arms 
fire on the troops ; there seemed to be more of it than ever. The controlling factors 
on the 19th were the same as on the 17th and 18th — heavy and accurate enemy 
fire from all the high ground and especially from Bloody Ridge; the ineffective- 
ness of artillery against many of the Japanese positions ; and the restricted use of 
self-propelled artillery because of the rough terrain, the narrow roads, and 
numerous mines. 

Once again some progress was made on the east flank, less on the west, and 
practically none in the center. On the east the 3d Battalion of the 307th, bypassing 
the main enemy positions to the west, managed to advance 800 yards north. A 



21 77th Div G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 85, 19 Apr 45. 



172 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



gap thereby developed between the two battalions of the 307th, and to fill it the 
1 st Battalion, 305th, pulled out of its position north of Agarii-mae, swung south 
and west, and attacked north at 1330. 

The 3d Battalion of the 305th Infantry, on the west, ran into heavy fire from 
pillboxes and the ruins of Ie as it pressed east. Since the battalion was to maintain 
contact with the 307th on the right (south) and the 306th on the left (north), 
its commander had to extend his line into parallel zones of advance, with platoons 
taking a street apiece. In the maze of smashed buildings and rubble, fields of fire 
averaged only from 10 to 20 feet. Because of the width of the front and the chan- 
nelized fighting, the unit could not mass its strength for a drive in any one zone. 
The battalion gained about 250 yards, lost 100 yards on the right in a Japanese 
counterattack, and then withdrew to the outskirts of Ie for a safer night position. 

Companies F and G of the 2d Battalion of the 307th, in the center, attacked 
at 0900 and slowly fought their way up the slopes of Government House Hill. 
After a frontal attack had failed because of heavy enemy fire, the two companies 
turned to the west, pushed into the edge of the town on the high ground, and 
then swung back to the nose of the ridge and proceeded to assault the large 
buildings there during the afternoon. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion, 305th, on 
the east flank of the 2d Battalion, 307th, had attacked through heavy fire at 1330 
and had reached high ground 300 yards east of Government House Hill. 

Two battalions were now on Bloody Ridge, but they were not to stay for 
long. An enemy counterattack supported by mortar and automatic fire drove the 
men of the 1st Battalion, 305th, off the high ground and back to their original 
position near the beach. At this time the 2d Battalion, 307th, was still fighting 
for Government House Hill 300 yards to the west. The Americans could not, 
however, consolidate their hold on the buildings. Their ammunition was run- 
ning low; an amtrack started up the hill with resupply, but the drivers fled when 
a group of Japanese ran out of a small draw and flung a satchel charge into the 
vehicle. The troops on the hill were now receiving fire from the high ground 
just lost by the 305th as well as from the area to the north. Their commander 
received permission to withdraw. Despite intense fire, Pfc. Martin O. May, a 
machine gunner of Company H, voluntarily held his post and covered the with- 
drawal. Another assault on Bloody Ridge had netted only heavy casualties. 

The Japanese on Ie Shima were using the defensive methods that had char- 
acterized their fighting on other Pacific islands: a house-to-house, cave-to-cave, 
yard-by-yard linear defense, supported by vicious counterattacks of from platoon 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



r 73 



to company strength; ingeniously concealed detachments that harassed rear 
elements after the assault troops had passed by ; and night infiltrators who even 
reactivated mines that had been collected by American troops during the day. 
Although they had few heavy weapons on Ie, the Japanese effectively used mor- 
tars, antitank guns, and light and heavy machine guns; when these were not 
available, they fought with satchel charges, grenades, and crude spears. The 
soldiers on Ie, unlike those on Kerama, had the fanatical support of the civilians, 
including even women with babies, who took part in suicide raids and helped 
defend caves and tunnels. 

On Ie Shima the Japanese sowed thousands of mines, most of them on the 
airfield, along the beaches and beach roads, and in the heavily defended area 
west of the town of Ie. Many mines were adapted from aerial bombs and set up 
in a crude manner : the bomb was fixed at the bottom of a hole, fuze up, and a rock 
was balanced on two poles at the top of the hole. A pull wire ran from one of the 
poles to a Japanese soldier concealed near by who set off the contraption when an 
American vehicle approached. Such a bomb-mine could flip a 15-ton amtrack 
over on its back. Most of the mines, however, were of a more standard type. 

Capture of legusugu, 20-21 April 

General Bruce determined to break the deadlock. On 19 April he recon- 
noitered the eastern approaches to legusugu by sailing around the eastern end 
of Ie Shima in a Navy control boat. Aerial reconnaissance had failed to give an 
accurate picture of the terrain, but from his floating observation post General 
Bruce was able to study the terrain as it would appear to attacking infantrymen. 
He concluded that the most promising direction for the attack on legusugu 
would be across the favorable terrain north and east of the Pinnacle. His plan 
of attack for 20 April shifted the main effort from the 307th Infantry, south of 
the Pinnacle, to the 306th, north of it, while the division as a whole tightened the 
ring around legusugu. |(See Map No. XVIII. )| 

By nightfall of 19 April the regiments of the 77th were in an advantageous 
position to execute this plan. The lines of the 306th Infantry extended from the 
Pinnacle northeast to the coast, and the 306th had patrolled extensively southeast 
of its lines. After its easy advance on 19 April, the 3d Battalion of the 307th was 
directly at the base of legusugu on the east. South and west of the mountain and 
the town were the battalions that had been hammering at Bloody Ridge: from 
southeast to west, the 1st Battalion, 305th; the 2d Battalion, 307th; and the 3d 




ATTACK ON BLOODY RIDGE of 20 April was marked by severe -fighting. Infantrymen 
of the ^oyth Infantry, yyth Division (above), move on the double toward Government 
House Hill, on the ridge. During the fighting on Bloody Ridge two medium tan\s (below ) 
were \noc\ed out by Japanese artillery fire from the Pinnacle. 




CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



Battalion, 305th. Since the noose around the enemy bastion was not yet tight, 
the 2d Battalion, 307th, and the 1st Battalion, 305th, were ordered to recapture 
the ground they had lost on the previous day, while the 306th made the main 
assault from the northeast. 
Closing the Ring 

At 0850 on 20 April artillery fired an intense preparation on enemy-held 
areas ahead of the troops. At 0900 the fires stopped. For ten minutes, as part 
of a strategem to draw the Japanese out of their position, the infantry remained 
in place. Then at 0910 the artillery loosed an even heavier concentration, lasting 
fifteen minutes. 

The three regiments attacked on the heels of the second bombardment. 
The 306th jumped off with the 1st Battalion in assault, supported by tanks 
and combat engineers. The 2d Battalion of the 306th remained in position 
on the north slopes of the Pinnacle, and the 3d Battalion followed the 1st, 
echeloned to the left (southeast) of the 1st to protect its flank. The 3d Battalion 
of the 307th, east of Iegusugu, pulled back to the south to give the attacking 
troops greater freedom of action. The 2d Battalion of the 307th, with the 1st 
Battalion of the 305th abreast of it on the east, again drove up the steep slopes 
toward the top of Bloody Ridge and the town and mountain beyond. The 3d 
Battalion, 305th, attacked east into Ie — for the fourth consecutive day. 

All the assault units closing in on the Japanese came almost immediately 
under heavy fire. Enemy resistance seemed no less stubborn than on the previous 
days. The 305th and 307th, respectively south and west of the town of Ie, were 
soon involved in another bitter, yard-by-yard advance. Once again the 3d 
Battalion, 305th, had to fight through a maze of rubble and narrow streets 
amid the ruins of Ie. Under intense mortar and small-arms fire, the 2d Battalion, 
307th, and the 1st Battalion, 305th, pushed up once again toward the top of 
Bloody Ridge, the key to the enemy's defenses south of the Pinnacle. The two 
battalions moved out across open terrain dominated by the enemy, who had 
perfect observation of all their movements. 

Leading elements of the 306th came under intense mortar and small-arms fire 
as they left the line of departure 600 yards northeast of the base of Iegusugu. The 
Pinnacle loomed above them, its slopes covered with masses of torn and twisted 
vegetation. Describing the Pinnacle on the morning of the 20th, General Randle, 
assistant division commander of the 77th, stated: "It is a damned highly fortified 
position with caves three stories deep, each house concrete with machine guns in 
and under. Whole area of village and circumference of mountain a maze of ma- 



176 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



chine gun, mortar, and gun positions little affected by artillery fire we have 
poured on." 22 

Even as this message was on its way to the 77th Division command post, 
the 306th was winning a hold on the formidable position. 
Assault by the 306th 

Company B of the 306th Infantry, on the right (northwest), and Company 
C, on the left, advanced straight into the Japanese positions on the north slopes 
of Iegusugu. A deep tank ditch lay 300 yards from the base of the Pinnacle. 
Mortar and antitank fire was coming from this ditch, from the peak of Iegusugu, 
and from a string of concealed pillboxes and deep caves on the lower slopes. 
The area over which the assault troops moved was mined and was swept by 
crossed grazing machine-gun fires. The action that ensued was singled out by 
the division report as worthy of note : 

The attack of the 306th Infantry was as close to being a perfect Fort Benning demon- 
stration problem as one could expect to see in actual combat. Maximum use was made of 
organic and attached supporting weapons on a ridge overlooking the advance and their 
fire was closely coordinated with the steady advance of the infantry: 37-mm. guns emplaced 
in positions from which gunners had good observation of the terrain were used to blast 
pillboxes and to designate targets with tracers for the more powerful guns of the SP Guns 
Mi 8 and the medium tanks. The Infantry advance frequently was accomplished only by 
creeping, crawling, and infiltration, but it continued steadily forward. Engineers and infan- 
try, covered by overhead machine gun fire and direct fire of self-propelled guns of infantry 
regiments and tanks, opened a lane through the minefields which ringed the mountain, 
and through this bridgehead succeeding waves of tanks and infantry poured to fan out on 
the other side of the field and resume the offensive. 23 

The 3d Battalion of the 306th, echeloned to the left (southeast) of the 1st, 
came under flat trajectory 37- and 47-mm. gunfire as it neared the base of 
Iegusugu. Infantrymen supported by the direct fire of medium tanks crept up 
to a group of concrete tombs converted into strong points and blew them out 
with satchel charges, killing twenty-four Japanese. By early afternoon the attack 
of the 306th had secured all ground to within 200 yards of the base of the 
Pinnacle. The regiment halted to reorganize; in its 4-hour fight Company B, 
which had the hardest going on the right (northwest), had lost its commander 
and twenty-six men dead or wounded. 

After a preparation by the 304th Field Artillery Battalion, the 306th launched 
a second attack at 1430, supported by self-propelled mounts (SPM's) and tanks. 

22 77th Div G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 97, 20 Apr 45. 

23 77th Div Actn Rpt, p. 32. 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



177 



Company C of the 306th was passed through B to continue the attack. By a 
series of rushes through intense machine-gun and mortar fire, the troops gained 
the slopes of the Pinnacle. In twenty minutes the leading troops were halfway 
up the northeast side. Supported by direct gunfire from the area below, the 
infantry and engineers assaulted cave after cave. Higher up on the Pinnacle 
infantrymen trained in mountain climbing scaled sheer rock walls, hauling up 
flame throwers and charges to blast the enemy out of his holes. 

By the end of the day the 1st Battalion, 306th, was spread over the northern 
slopes of Iegusugu. A patrol from Company A had climbed up the face of a 
cliff and thrown a colored smoke grenade over the peak to inform the troops 
on the south of their position. The battalion pulled its lines back for the night 
but stayed on the slopes. The 3d Battalion, 306th, had during the day gained 
positions within 400 yards of the peak on the east side. The 2d Battalion had 
pivoted south to keep abreast of the other elements of the 306th. 

General Bruce notified General Buckner at noon on 20 April: "Base of 
Pinnacle completely surrounded despite bitterest fight I have ever witnessed 
against a veritable fortress." 24 
Capture of Bloody Ridge 

While the 306th Infantry was assailing Iegusugu from the north on 20 
April, the 305th and 307th were attacking up the southern slopes of Bloody 
Ridge. After a bitter fight lasting several hours and resembling the yard-by-yard 
advances of previous days in this area, the 2d Battalion, 307th, again seized the 
buildings on Government House Hill, and the 1st Battalion, 305th, reoccupied 
the knob overlooking Government House Hill from the east. Knowing that it 
would be even harder to hold their positions than it had been to gain them, the 
Americans hastily fortified them against counterattack. Machine guns were 
mounted on the second floor of Government House, covering the area toward 
the Pinnacle, and the troops occupied the ground north of the buildings up to 
a shallow draw that led to the mountain. Company G was to the west, Company 
E to the east, and Company F in the center. Engineers and guns were brought 
up to strengthen the weakened units on Bloody Ridge, who were determined 
not to lose these positions again. Even as they consolidated their ground the 
Americans fought off two small but vigorous counterattacks and lost two tanks 
to Japanese carrying satchel charges. 

The 3d Battalion of the 307th, east of Ie, and the 3d Battalion of the 305th, 
on the west, attacked into the town during the day from opposite directions. 

ai 77th Div G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 64, 20 Apr 45. 



178 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



After fighting over difficult terrain covered with thick undergrowth and dotted 
with pillboxes and caves, the 3d Battalion, 307th, held a line at the base of 
Iegusugu running to newly won Bloody Ridge. The 3d Battalion, 305th, made a 
slow advance through the ruins of Ie in an easterly direction, keeping visual con- 
tact with the 306th on the left (north) and physical contact with the 307th on the 
right (south). The increasing restriction of its zone by the advance of the 2d 
Battalion of the 307th, on the south, together with the continued resistance of the 
enemy in Ie, limited the battalion to small gains. 

During the night of 20-21 April small groups of Japanese probed the 
American lines around Government House Hill on Bloody Ridge, evidently 
looking for a weak spot in the defenses of the 2d Battalion. At 0430 on 21 April 
the enemy began an hour-long mortar concentration on the positions. At 0530, 
from 300 to 400 of the enemy stormed the American lines on the left (west) 
flank. Supported by intense mortar and small-arms fire, the Japanese advanced 
in columns — one from the north, another from the northwest, and a third from 
the west. Among them were women armed with spears. The enemy came 
through his own mortar fire in a last desperate attempt to knock the Americans 
off Bloody Ridge. 

Company G, 307th Infantry, felt the chief weight of the attack. Its right 
platoon held fast, but the left (west) platoon gave way. The Japanese drove in 
to the battalion command post just under the rim of Government House Hill 
on the west side. Here the command post personnel, attached engineers, and 
the remaining members of Company G fought for their lives. The battalion 
commander, staff officers, clerks, cooks, and drivers formed a line along the 
crest of the hill. In a suicide attack Japanese rushed into the line and exploded 
satchel charges. Some of them came within fifteen feet of the center of the com- 
mand post area before they were shot down or grenaded by the defending troops. 
The improvised line held. It did so largely because of the action of Private May, 
who was still supporting the riflemen after two days of almost continual action 
under heavy fire. He fired his machine gun until it was knocked out by a mortar 
burst and he was severely wounded. May, who later was awarded the Congres- 
sional Medal of Honor for this action, resorted to hand grenades, which he threw 
at the Japanese until he was again wounded, this time mortally. After an hour 
of struggle at close quarters, the Americans drove the enemy back and regained 
the lost position. 

By dawn the counterattack had slackened off. Most of the attacking Japanese 
had been killed within the American lines. In the area of Company G there were 




GOVERNMENT HOUSE HILL, western end of Bloody Ridge, viewed after the battle from 
beach road at east end of Red Beach 4. Scarcely any vestige of the town of le remained. 
The Binnacle looms behind ridge. Government House {below) was only a concrete shell 
after both American and Japanese fire power had wor\ed it over. The 2d Battalion, ^ojth 
Infantry, jyth Division, used the second floor as machine-gun position to cover 305th and 
^oyth troops moving up Bloody Ridge on right. 




i8o 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



280 bodies ; in front of F and E were 84 more. The American troops also suffered 
heavy casualties. Company G, already depleted by the previous fighting for 
Bloody Ridge, had only 36 effectives left on the morning of 21 April. Company 
H had 49; Company E, 57. Of the two machine gun platoons of Company EL, 19 
men were available for duty, and two guns were left of the original eight. In the 
2d Battalion, 307th, 30 officers had been killed or wounded by 21 April — almost 
all its original officer complement. 

However great the cost, Bloody Ridge was now won for good. There was 
little fight left in the scattered groups of Japanese still occupying the center of 
the town below Iegusugu. The 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, relieved the 2d 
during the morning and began mopping up positions and sealing caves around 
Government House Hill. The 3d Battalion, 305th, which had broken up an 
attack on its north flank by two platoons of Japanese at dawn of 21 April and 
killed thirty of the enemy, finally made a successful attack east into the town of 
Ie. The troops moved forward again after a short artillery preparation. In three 
hours the battalion destroyed twelve separate emplacements, chiefly by means of 
flame throwers, bazookas, and pole charges, and gained a line running south from 
the small lake at the southwest base of Iegusugu. The Pinnacle at last lay open 
to attack from the south. 
Conquest of the Pinnacle, 21 April 

The three battalions of the 306th tightened their grip on Iegusugu during 
the morning of 21 April. The 3d Battalion assaulted the east slopes at 0830, and 
the 1st and 2d Battalions continued to reduce caves and pillboxes on the north 
and northwest slopes. Early in the morning a patrol from the 1st Battalion scaled 
a 50-foot cliff under sniper fire, and at 1025 a member of the patrol flew the 
American flag from his hands at the very tip of Iegusugu. Increased sniper fire 
from the lower slopes prevented others from bringing up a flagpole and ulti- 
mately forced the men off the peak. 

Fierce fighting continued on the sides of the Pinnacle as the infantrymen 
tightened their grip during the remainder of 21 April. The battalions were now 
so close to one another that careful coordination was necessary to prevent troops 
from firing on friendly units. General Randle ordered successive attacks so that 
one battalion could attack while others took cover. The 3d Battalion, 306th, 
reduced a strong position on its left (south) flank, and at 1030 established contact 
with the north flank of the 1st Battalion, 305th. Shortly after noon the 3d Bat- 
talion of the 307th, on the west, and the 1st Battalion of the 305th, on the east, 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



181 



attacked north from their positions on Bloody Ridge to gain the southern slopes 
of Iegusugu. Resistance was slight and the slopes were reached at 1300. The 
attack crossed the front of the 3d Battalion, 305th, which was pinched out. The 
1st Battalion, 305th, was also pinched out when its zone of action narrowed. The 
3d Battalion, 307th, was now between the 2d Battalion, 306th, on the left (west), 
and the 3d Battalion, 306th, on the right. "All organized resistance crushed," 
General Randle notified General Bruce at 1345. 25 

Disorganized resistance, however, continued. The southwest slopes of Iegu- 
sugu were still in enemy hands. At 1400 Company E on the right (south) flank 
of the 2d Battalion, 306th, made a coordinated attack with elements of the 3d 
Battalion, 305th, to push on to the southwest side. The attacking troops immedi- 
ately came under fire from emplacements still occupied by the enemy. It was 
no longer possible to use artillery, the area still held by the Japanese being too 
small. Naval gunfire support had ceased on 19 April for the same reason. Even 
the use of self-propelled 75-mm. howitzers was limited. With small arms, 
grenades, flame throwers, and demolitions, the troops cleaned the Japanese from 
their positions on the steep slopes. Two tanks were brought up to help knock out 
a large fortified cave about halfway up the mountain. By 1445 the troops attack- 
ing from the west had seized their assigned area. 

By midafternoon of 21 April all units on the Pinnacle were engaged in mop- 
ping up. The exterior of the Pinnacle was secure, but Japanese still remained 
in subterranean passages and strongholds from which they made sallies against 
the troops. The openings were systematically blown out and sealed off. The 
307th alone captured or destroyed during the day five 81-mm. mortars, five knee 
mortars, one 75-mm. howitzer, and two 47-mm. antitank guns. These were some 
of the weapons that had held the Americans off Bloody Ridge for three days. 

At 1730 on 21 April, Ie Shima was declared secure. "The last three days of 
this fighting were the bitterest I ever witnessed," General Bruce stated when the 
operation was over. 26 

Last Phase 

For five days after Ie Shima was declared secure, elements of the 77th mopped 
up remaining groups of the enemy, sealed caves, destroyed pillboxes, marked or 
removed the thousands of mines that were still on the island, and buried the 
dead. During this period hundreds of Japanese were killed in and around the 

25 77th Div G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 70, 21 Apr 45. 

26 77th Div G-3 Msg File, Msg No. 97, 22 Apr 45. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Pinnacle, in the town of Ie, and in caves along the coast line. Removal of mines 
on the airfield and on the roads feeding it was given priority in order to speed 
up airfield construction. The last noteworthy encounter on Ie Shima came during 
the night of 22-23 April, when a group of Japanese soldiers and civilians, includ- 
ing women, all armed with rifles, grenades, and demolitions, rushed from caves 
on Iegusugu toward the lines of the 306th. They were all cut down without loss 
to American troops. 

During the 6-day battle on Ie Shima the Americans killed 4,706 Japanese 
and took 149 prisoners. Many of the dead were civilians ; it was extremely hard to 
distinguish between soldiers and civilians during the fighting or when inspect- 
ing the bodies afterwards. It was estimated that 1,500 civilians had been armed 
and supplied with Japanese Army uniforms. Some others were in American 
uniforms. The amount of enemy materiel destroyed will never be known, since 
so much of it was buried by gunfire, sealed up in caves, or simply blown to pieces. 
Among the destroyed or captured materiel actually counted were 34 mortars, 44 
light machine guns, 8 heavy machine guns, 4 antitank guns, 5 antiaircraft guns, 
more than 5,000 mines of assorted types, and several crates of parts for suicide 
rocket planes. 

American casualties through 24 April were reported as 172 killed in action, 
902 wounded, and 46 missing — a total of 1,120. According to the division sur- 
geon, "casualties on Ie Shima were unusually severe, many of them compound 
fractures of the extremities and penetrating head wounds caused by small-arms 
fire." Out of 944 cases, he reported, 412 wounds had been caused by small-arms 
fire, 511 by shell fragments, and 21 by other causes. 27 Losses in materiel and am- 
munition expenditures also were high for such a short engagement. Of sixty 
medium tanks and six 105-mm. assault guns, five were completely destroyed by 
enemy mines, hand-placed satchel charges, or antitank guns, and many others 
were temporarily neutralized. During the operation almost 5,000 75-mm. and 
105-mm. shells were fired from tanks and SPM's and over 2,500 rounds of 37's 
and 75's from amtracks. Despite restrictions on the use of heavier fire because of 
the proximity of the units during the latter part of the fighting, division artillery 
fired 16,023 rounds of 105-mm. and 155-mm. shells. 

"We have gained at relatively low cost in men, materials, and time what will 
soon be the most valuable eleven square miles of land in the far western Pacific," 
the 77th Division reported optimistically at the conclusion of the engagement. 28 

27 77th Div Actn Rpt, p. 42. 

28 77th Div G-3 Msg File, p. 55. 



CAPTURE OF IE SHIMA 



183 



Base development proceeded rapidly once the mopping up was completed. Al- 
though initially delayed by the large number of mines, the engineers quickly 
repaired the enemy airfield and began the construction of new strips. The coral 
foundation of the island and the rubble of the town of Ie facilitated the work. 
There was ample room for dispersal area, and the sloping ground on the sides 
and ends of the central plateau provided space for housing base personnel. 
Civilians were evacuated to Tokashiki in the Keramas. Engineers discovered a 
large limestone basin on the north coast which produced 100,000 gallons of fresh 
water; at high tide each day the basin filled up with water filtered by nature. 
Under these conditions work proceeded rapidly and by 10 May one fighter group 
was based on the island. By the middle of the month all taxiways and runways 
were fully operational and radar and air warning facilities installed, although 
much construction work remained. By 14 June three fighter groups and one 
night fighter squadron were operating from the airfield. As expected, Ie Shima 
proved to be an ideal base for the support of operations on Okinawa and for 
preparing later attacks on the Japanese homeland. 



CHAPTER VIII 



The Attack of 19 April on the 
Shuri Defenses 

Under a bright warm sun on the afternoon of 18 April, infantrymen of the 
27th Division in their bivouac area north of Uchitomari inspected their weapons 
and struggled with their belts, harness, and bandoleers. At 1500 they began to 
stroll of! toward Uchitomari in long, halting lines. At 1540 several men, without 
jackets or helmets, picked up a machine gun on O'Hara's Knob, north of Mach- 
inate Inlet, and sauntered over to the north edge of the inlet, where they set up the 
weapon. There was little stir or bustle. Small groups of soldiers moved here and 
there, settling down at various spots to look across the inlet and wait. 1 

Such was the opening move in an action that was soon to swell into a heavy 
attack across the entire Corps front. This seemingly random movement was care- 
fully planned. The 27th was going into position to launch a surprise penetration 
of the enemy's west flank as a preliminary to the attack of the whole XXIV 
Corps on 19 April. For more than a week the Corps had been making feverish 
preparations for this attack, in the hope that one powerful assault by three 
divisions abreast might smash through the Shuri defenses. 

Plans and Preparations 

American Plan of Attack, 

General Hodge's plan was to break through the enemy's intricate defense 
system around Shuri and to seize the low valley and highway extending across 
the island between Yonabaru and Naha. He ordered the 7th Division on the 
east to take Hill 178, then to press south to that section of the Naha-Yonabaru 
road in its zone. The 96th Division, less the 383d Infantry, in Corps reserve, was 
to drive straight through the heart of the Shuri defenses, seizing the town of 
Shuri as far as the highway beyond. For these two divisions H Hour would be 
0640, 19 April. The 27th was to attack at H plus 50 minutes from positions taken 

1 The account of the operations of the 27th Division is based almost wholly on Capt. Edmund G. Love, 
The 27th Division on Okinawa (hereafter cited as Love, 27th Div History). 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



185 



during the previous night; its mission was to seize Kakazu Ridge, the western 
portion of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, and the hilly country and coastal plain 
beyond to the Naha-Yonabaru highway. The 27th Division's delayed entrance 
was to allow for progressive massing of artillery fire from east to west along the 



line as the attack developed. 2 1( See Map No. XIX.) 



Perhaps the most striking element of the plan was its provision for a tre- 
mendous artillery preparation beginning 40 minutes before the assault groups 
moved out. Twenty-seven battalions of artillery, nine of them Marine, were to be 
prepared to mass fire on any section of the front. After 20 minutes of pounding 
the enemy's front lines, artillery would lift its fire and hit his rear areas for 10 
minutes, in an effort to induce the Japanese to emerge from their underground 
positions; then the shelling would shift back to the enemy's front lines for the 
10 minutes remaining until H Hour. This procedure was to be repeated for the 
attack of the 27th Division. During the preparation, aircraft and naval guns 
were to pound the Japanese rear areas. Rockets and r,ooo-pound bombs were to 
be directed against the headquarters installations in Shuri. A landing force, 
covered by planes and naval guns and embarked in transports, was to feint a 
landing on beaches along the southeastern coast of southern Okinawa. 

General Hodge viewed the prospect with high hopes, mingled with grim 
appreciation of the difficulties ahead. "It is going to be really tough," he said 
two days before the attack; "there are 65,000 to 70,000 fighting Japs holed up 
in the south end of the island, and I see no way to get them out except blast 
them out yard by yard." He saw no immediate possibility of large-scale maneu- 
vers, but he did foresee opportunity for "small maneuver thrusts within the 
divisions," and possibly later within the Corps if the Americans broke through 
the Shuri fortified zone. 8 
Terrain Features 

Terrain which became increasingly formidable confronted each of the three 
divisions. In front of the 27th lay Machinato Inlet on the right; a low flat area 
covered with rice paddies and dissected by streams, later called "Buzz Bomb 
Bowl," in the center; and the Kakazu hill mass and town on the left. The 96th 
faced several inconspicuous but strongly defended hills, such as Tombstone and 
Nishibaru Ridges, as well as the bold face of Tanabaru Escarpment. The 7th 
Division was confronted by the stout defenses of Hill 178 and the town of Ouki, 
which had brought it to a full stop. 

2 XXIV Corps FO No. 47, 16 Apr 45. 

3 Ltr CG XXIV Corps to COMGENPOA, 17 Apr 45. 




STRATEGIC AREA OF SOUTHERN OKINAWA seen from an altitude of 7,300 feet. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



187 



These terrain features were merely points of the initial barrier; beyond them 
lay even stronger obstacles. The most prominent of these was the Urasoe-Mura 
Escarpment, which stretched across the 27th Division's front and most of the 
way across that of the 96th. The escarpment rose from the East China Sea in a 
jagged coral spine that steadily gained height as it extended southeastward. At 
its highest point, near the center of the island, Urasoe-Mura jutted upward 215 
feet from the jumbled ground at its base. From this point, called Hill 196, and 
from most of the escarpment itself, the enemy had excellent observation in all 
directions. Although the escarpment came to an abrupt end near the center of 
the island, Japanese defenses in the rough ground around Kochi, Onaga, and 
Unaha extended almost to Buckner Bay. Behind this line lay the inner Shuri 
defenses. The core of the Japanese defensive system on Okinawa, this ground 
was utterly without pattern; it was a confusion of little mesa-like hilltops, deep 
draws, rounded clay hills, gentle, green valleys, bare and ragged coral ridges, 
lumpy mounds of earth, narrow ravines, and sloping finger ridges extending 
downward from the higher hill masses. 4 

American Preparations 

There was virtually no change in the lines from 14 to 19 April. Patrols 
probed the enemy's defenses; artillery, naval guns, and aircraft searched out 
and destroyed enemy mortars, artillery pieces, and installations. Ground and air 
observers studied the ground in front of XXIV Corps and pinpointed caves, 
trenches, supply points, and emplacements which were to be demolished during 
the artillery preparation on the 19th. 

Behind the lines there was unceasing activity. General Hodge had remarked 
that the attack would be "90 percent logistics and 10 percent fighting"; 5 the 
truth of this observation was borne out by the intensified activity along the 
beaches, the continuous bulldozing of the main supply routes, and the long 
lines of trucks and DUKW's laden with ammunition and supplies rolling toward 
the front night and day. Among the array of weapons poised for the attack 
were armored flame throwers, which were to be used for the first time on 
Okinawa in the attack of 19 April. 

Fresh troops also were brought in. The 27th Division, previously in floating 
reserve, had landed at the Hagushi beaches on 9 April to serve as reinforcements 

4 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 161-65. The authors reconnoitered this terrain by jeep and 
on foot at frequent intervals during and after the operation and studied the area from observation planes. 

s Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Hodge, 12 Apr 45. 




MACHINATO INLET, seen shortly after the action of ig April. Three Weasels on the 
road (left) were \noc\ed out. In background (left) Buzz Bomb Bowl slopes up to Urasoe- 
Mura Escarpment. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



189 



in the attack. It was assigned to XXIV Corps and proceeded to relieve the 96th 
Division in the western part of its zone. By 15 April the 27th was in position. 
The attack was further reinforced by about 1,200 replacements sent in to the 
7th and 96th Divisions. Processed and equipped in Saipan, the new arrivals had 
been dispatched through the replacement battalion on Okinawa in a few hours. 
They were uniformly young and healthy, and mentally above average. Their 
arrival heightened the morale of the men in the infantry companies, but XXIV 
Corps still remained understrength for the heavy fighting ahead. 6 

Japanese Preparations 

The Japanese were not idle. A 62d Division order on 14 April warned of 
the attack: "The enemy is now preparing to advance on all fronts. Our front 
lines will necessarily be subjected to fierce bombardments." Unit commanders 
were ordered to strengthen positions. Strong points were to be so distributed 
that the loss of one point would not mean the break-up of the whole line. Units 
were to "secure their weapons by placing them under cover or in a position of 
readiness, so that they will not be prematurely destroyed." The enemy evidently 
anticipated the necessity of withdrawing, however, for he ordered secret docu- 
ments to be burned "as the situation becomes untenable." 7 

During the lull before the attack, the enemy redoubled his attempts to teach 
his troops the proper defense against American tactics and weapons. The 44th 
Independent Mixed Brigade on 13 April issued a "battle lesson — urgent report" 
describing defenses against American flame-throwing tanks and "yellow phos- 
phorus incendiary shells." The 22d Regiment on 15 April described American 
night defensive positions and how to infiltrate through them. The yid Army 
emphasized the importance of careful selection of points from which to make 
close-quarters attacks on American tanks. 8 

Admitting that American fire power was their main concern, the Japanese 
paid special attention to their underground defenses. Units were cautioned to 
build reserve positions into which troops could move quickly from caves under 
attack. Simple rules were issued on 15 April for protecting the health and morale 
of Japanese troops in caves undergoing severe bombardment: 

Spiritual training within the cave must be intensified. . . . Useless work should be 
avoided; whenever there is free time, get as much sleep as possible. . . . Have the men go 
outside the cave at night at least once or twice and perform deep breathing and physical 

"XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 100. 

7 Tenth Army Transl No. 65, 1 1 May 45, and No. 115, 31 May 45. 

8 Tenth Army Transl No. 111,2 Jun 45, No. 163, 18 Jun 45, and No. 122, 2 Jun 45. 



190 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



exercises. . . . Latrines should be built inside and outside the caves and, above all, kept 
clean. . . . Take precautions against diarrhea and epidemic diseases resulting from drinking 
water which has been left untreated because of the inconvenience of having fire. 9 

Preliminary Attac\ of the 27th Division, 18 April 

The 27th Division, on the right of the Corps line, was faced by a situation 
that called for the utmost ingenuity if it were to succeed in its assignment of a 
preliminary surprise attack. Holding the sector on the northern side of Machinato 
Inlet, this division, and particularly the 106th Infantry on the extreme right, 
was wholly under the observation of the enemy on the other side of the inlet. 
Any movement by the Americans, or even preparation for movement, could be 
clearly observed from the Japanese positions on a bluff overlooking the inlet and 
on the escarpment about a mile farther back. The success of any attack depended 
on its being prepared and executed in complete secrecy from the enemy. 
Plan of Attack^ 

A captured Japanese document gave Maj. Gen. George W. Griner, Jr., com- 
mander of the 27th, an idea for the tactics to employ. This document, issued by 
the 62d Division, informed the Japanese troops that "the enemy generally fires 
during the night, but very seldom takes offensive action." A copy of the transla- 
tion reached 27th Division headquarters as the plans for the attack were being 
laid, and impelled the division staff to decide on a night attack to surprise the 
enemy. The 27th had trained in night maneuvers shortly before embarking for 
Okinawa. Moreover, the terrain in front of the division made a night attack most 
desirable. More than 1,000 yards of open ground lay between its front lines in 
the Uchitomari area and the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, which was an initial 
objective of the 27th. An attack during daylight across this ground, obstructed as 
it was by Machinato Inlet on the west, rice paddies and streams in the center, 
and rough ground on the division's left (east), would enable the enemy to 
exploit his complete observation of the area and to bring in prearranged fires on 
the exposed troops. A night attack would avoid this peril and might catch the 
enemy napping. 10 

General Griner's plan also took advantage of the fact that the Machinato 
area was not held in strength by the enemy but merely outposted. Accordingly, 
the 106th Infantry on the right (west) was to cross Machinato Inlet, advance 

9 Tenth Army Transl No. 47, 7 May 45. 

10 Love, 27th Div History, pp. 36-38. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



191 



under cover of darkness during the night of 18-19 April toward the escarpment, 
and by daylight reach Urasoe-Mura where Route 1 cuts through it; then the 
assault troops were to push down the escarpment to the southeast and seize the 
vital high ground in its sector. On the division's left (east), the 105th Infantry 
was to undertake an entirely different type of attack — a powerful daylight push, 
lacking deception or maneuver, designed to obliterate Japanese opposition by 
main force. The 105th was to attack from its positions before Kakazu on the 
morning of the 19th, clean out the town of Kakazu, and advance straight ahead 
to gain the crest of Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, where the regiment would hook 
up with the 106th on its right (west). "Nothing must be allowed to stop the 
forward movement," General Griner ordered. 11 
Mounting the Attac\ 

The mounting of the attack furnished a ticklish engineering problem, which 
was complicated by the need for secrecy. Four bridges at Machinato Inlet 
were to be built during the night of 18-19 April — a footbridge for the assault 
troops to move across during the night, two Bailey bridges, totaling ninety feet, 
for supporting weapons, and a rubber ponton bridge strong enough to carry 
2 1 / 4-ton trucks loaded with supplies. Erecting these bridges in the dark would be 
difficult enough, but, to make matters worse, the i02d Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, the division engineers, had had no experience with the Bailey bridge. 
The division had left the United States before the adoption of this type of struc- 
ture and had fought on small islands where large spans were not required. 
Fortunately, an officer who had helped construct several Baileys in Tunisia, 1st Lt. 
Irving S. Golden, had recently joined the division. Under his direction the engi- 
neers spent several days building, tearing down, and rebuilding Bailey bridges in 
a division rear area. 

Secrecy was vitally important, but very difficult to maintain because of the 
excellent enemy observation and the intense activity necessary for the attack. 
The appearance of stock piles of bridge equipment near Machinato Inlet would 
alert the Japanese to the plan of crossing the inlet in strength. Consequently the 
I02d Engineers assembled its equipment in rear areas in readiness for instant 
transportation. Pontons were inflated, and bridge sections were assembled to 
the maximum size that trucks could carry. 

Another piece of deception was also executed cunningly. The route leading 
to the proposed ponton bridges was a shell-pocked, deeply rutted little jeep road 



Ibid., p. 42. 



192 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



which ran by O'Hara's Knob and ended in a rice paddy 250 yards short of the 
objective, the northeast edge of the inlet. The road had to be made ready to 
carry the traffic of trucks loaded with bridge equipment, but attempts to improve 
it might arouse Japanese suspicions. During daylight hours in the period before 
the attack a bulldozer puttered about on this road, in plain view of the enemy. 
When an occasional jeep became bogged down, the bulldozer chugged over to 
extricate the vehicle, remaining to push dirt and rocks into the ruts. The opera- 
tor alternately slept, tinkered with the engine, and expressed his annoyance with 
sweeping gestures when still another jeep became bogged down. But at night he 
worked feverishly. By 18 April the road had been extended and improved and 
reached almost to the edge of the inlet, although it would have been difficult for 
an observer to estimate just what had been done to the road and when. 

As the time for the attack approached, the plans took final form. General 
Griner hoped for a break-through and insisted that "no matter what else hap- 
pens, we must advance. We do not have time to wait for units on our flanks. If 
they cannot move, we will push forward anyway. I do not want to hear any unit 
commander calling me and telling me that he cannot advance because the unit 
on his flank cannot advance." 12 Maj. Gen. Archibald V. Arnold, Commanding 
General of the 7th Division, and Maj. Gen. James L. Bradley, commanding the 
96th, also instructed their commanders to push their attacks "vigorously and 
rapidly," even though casualties became severe and logistical problems resulted. 
They believed that by this means an early success could be ensured and an 
extended and costly battle avoided. 13 
Night Attac\ on the Escarpment 

At 1607 on 18 April a lone smoke shell, like a tentative mistaken shot, landed 
200 yards east of Machinato Inlet. A breeze wafted the smoke west toward the 
sea and spread a thin haze over the inlet. Assault troops who had assembled 
casually on the northeast side of the inlet during the afternoon now waited 
tensely. Within a few minutes other shells landed. Veiled by smoke, infantry- 
men sprinted along a pipeline to the western edge of the inlet. In a few minutes 
Company G, 106th Infantry, had crossed the inlet in this manner and had as- 
sembled under cover of the cliffs that border the inlet on the west. 

Company G's mission was to clean out the enemy outposts in the Machinato 
village area in order that the bridge construction and the movement of troops 
across the inlet during the night might proceed without detection. Operating 

12 Ibid., p. 43- 

18 7th Div FO No. 32, 17 Apr 45; 96th Div FO No. 17, 17 Apr 45. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



193 



by platoons, the company scaled the cliffs and maneuvered around the enemy 
outposts. By midnight, after a series of skirmishes, ambushes, and brief fire fights 
in the dark, the Japanese in the Machinato area had been cleaned out. 

The 27th Division was now on the move. At 1930 trucks carrying Bailey 
bridge equipment began moving out of a coral pit in the village of Isa and rolling 
south to the inlet. The last truckload of Bailey equipment was followed at 2000 
by the first full load of material for the footbridge. The ponton bridge was 
shuttled forward at 2030. Shortly after dark the bulldozer began to put the 
finishing touches on the approaches to the footbridge and ponton bridge to 
enable the trucks to drop their loads at the edge of the inlet. Working in the 
darkness, quietly and without interruption, the engineers completed the 128-yard 
footbridge by midnight and both Bailey bridges by 0300, 19 April. Only the 
ponton bridge caused trouble; the receding tide carried away the anchor line 
and some of the pontons, delaying completion of the bridge until noon of 
19 April. 

The 106th Infantry moved out shortly after midnight. Throughout the 
night a steady stream of men trudged across the footbridge. The enemy made 
no move to stop the crossing; Company G had done its work well. Company F 
of the 106th passed through Company G's lines just before dawn and quietly 
advanced single file along Route 1 toward the road cut at the northwest end of 
Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. Since the cut was believed to be defended, a frontal 
assault up the highway would be costly, even during darkness. Near the base of 
the escarpment, one platoon of the company turned off the road to the right 
(west) and started climbing the brush-covered slope. Half an hour later the 
troops reached the top, still undetected by the enemy. 

The platoon swung left (southeast) on the crest and silently moved down 
the ridge line of the escarpment toward the cut. It was now daylight. Near the 
cut they found Japanese soldiers sitting around fires, preparing their breakfast. 
The Americans immediately opened fire. Some of the enemy dropped; others 
fled toward the cut, leaving their weapons behind. The enemy was now alerted. 
Soon mortar fire began dropping on the rest of Company F as it moved up the 
highway. The platoon on top of the escarpment began sweeping rapidly toward 
the cut. For thirty minutes there was a brisk fight as the Americans closed in 
on the enemy; then, outflanked, the Japanese gave way and fled south from 
the cut. 

The 106th began consolidating its hold on the northwest end of Urasoe- 
Mura. By 0710 additional platoons were arriving on the crest near the cut and 



i 9 4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the few remaining Japanese were being flushed out of their hiding places. The 
106th prepared to push down the escarpment toward an eventual junction with 
the 105th. The attack had started auspiciously for the 27th Division. But by now 
the whole front was alive with thundering conflict. 

The General Attac\ 

As the morning mists cleared, the campaign's largest single air strike was 
delivered. By 0900 Yonabaru had been hit by 67 planes spreading napalm that 
burned everything above ground, Iwa had been devastated by a strike of 108 
planes, and Shuri by a strike of 139. A total of 650 Navy and Marine planes 
bombed, rocketed, napalmed, and machine-gunned the enemy. Six battleships, 
six cruisers, and six destroyers of the Fifth Fleet added their fire power to that of 
the planes and artillery. These sledge-hammer blows fell on about 4,000 combat 
veterans of the Japanese 62d Division who were manning the positions. 14 

The greatest concentration of artillery ever employed in the Pacific war 
sounded the prelude to the attack at dawn. Twenty-seven battalions of Corps and 
division artillery, 324 pieces in all, ranging from 105-mm. to 8-inch howitzer, fired 
the first rounds at 0600. This concentration represented an average of 75 artillery 
pieces to every mile of front, and actually it was even greater as the firing pro- 
gressed in mass from east to west. The shells thundered against the enemy's 
front lines for twenty minutes, then shifted 500 yards to the rear while the 
infantry simulated a movement as if beginning the attack; at 0630 the artillery 
shifted back to spray the enemy's front lines for the next ten minutes with time 
fire. In forty minutes American artillery placed 19,000 shells on the enemy's lines. 
Then, at 0640, the artillery lifted to enemy rear areas. 

The assault platoons advanced, hopeful that the great mass of metal and 
explosive had destroyed the enemy or had left him so stunned that he would be 
helpless. They were soon disillusioned; for the Japanese, deep in their caves, had 
scarcely been touched, and at the right moment they manned their battle sta- 
tions. 1 " Brig. Gen. Josef R. Sheetz, Commanding General, XXIV Corps Artillery, 
later said he doubted that as many as 190 Japanese, or 1 for every 100 shells, had 
been killed by the morning artillery preparation. 10 

"XXIV Corps Arty Actn Report, Annex C. Incl 2: Daily Air Missions for XXIV Corps, 1 Apr to 
21 Jun 45. p. 5: XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 19 Apr 45; 381st Inf Jnl. Msg Xo. 40, 19 Apr 45; Tenth 
Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: fad Division, pp. 5—6. 

10 XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 37; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 151-52. 168. 

30 Ibid., p. 179. 




OPENING ACTION, 19 APRIL, was the crossing of Machinato Inlet on footbridge in the 
early morning. Supporting artillery included this 8-inch howitzer unit (below), one of the 
first used against the Japanese in the Pacific fighting. 




196 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The yth Division Is Stopped on the East 

The 7th Division faced the nth Independent Infantry Battalion, which 
occupied a line extending from the east coast through the high ground immedi- 
ately inland. The 7th was deployed with the 32d Infantry on the left and the 
184th on the right. The plan of attack called for the 32d Infantry to seize Skyline 
Ridge, the eastern anchor of the Japanese line, and for the 184th to capture Hill 
178 and the area westward to the division boundary, which lay just beyond a long 
coral spine later known as the Rocky Crags. The main effort was to be made by 
two battalions down the center, along the lip of high ground leading to Ouki 
Hill, an extension of Skyline Ridge, high on the eastern slope of Hill 178. Once 
this point was reached the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, was to turn downhill along 
Skyline Ridge to the left (east), and the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, was to turn 
right (west) uphill against the crest of Hill 178." 

Two medium tanks and three armored flame throwers rumbled southward 
from the 7th Division's lines on the coastal flats, passed through Ouki, and 
quickly moved into position at the tip of Skyline Ridge. They poured shot and 
flame into the cluster of enemy-occupied tombs and emplacements at the lower 
extremity of the ridge. The long jets of orange flame probed all openings in the 
face of this part of Skyline, and dark, rolling masses of smoke billowed upward. 
This was a new spectacle for the waiting infantry, who watched fascinated. For 
the enemy who died in the searing flame inside their strong points, there was 
hardly time to become terror-stricken. This phase of the attack lasted fifteen 
minutes, and then, just after 0700, the infantry moved up. All the Japanese on 
the forward face of the tip had been killed by the flame, but there were others on 
the reverse side who denied any advance across the crest. The battle of the infantry 
quickly erupted and smoldered along the narrow knife-edge line of Skyline 
Ridge. American troops clung desperately to the forward slope through two 
Japanese counterattacks, in which the enemy crowded forward into his own 
mortar fire to hurl grenades and satchel charges. 

Higher up along the slope leading to Ouki Hill, the assault troops advanced 
about 500 yards without a shot being fired at them. Then suddenly, as they 
moved into a belt of ground covered by preregistered Japanese mortar and 
machine-gun fire, enemy weapons let loose and all forward movement stopped. 
Efforts to advance were unavailing throughout the day, and at 1620 the men 
pulled back to their former positions. The 3d Battalion was now compelled to 



17 The account of 7th Division operations on Skyline Ridge is based on Gugeier, 7th Div History. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



197 



give up its slight hold on the lower end of Skyline Ridge, where it had suffered 
almost one hundred casualties, including thirteen killed, during the day. 

On the division's right, the coral spine of the Rocky Crags, so named for the 
two dominating, jagged knobs, extended southward several hundred yards. It 
paralleled the direction of the American attack, pointing directly at the bold, 
white face of the Tanabaru Escarpment almost a mile away. For two days this 
ridge had been pounded by artillery. Company K of the 184th Infantry was 
directly in front of the northern point of the Crags. Patrols had not been molested. 
Observers had seen Japanese running about among the tombs on the slope but 
had not guessed that the coral outcropping was honeycombed with tunnels and 
caves stocked with weapons and alive with troops. Nor was it known that this 
area was an impact zone for artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire from pre- 
registered enemy weapons. All this was discovered on the morning of 19 April. 
Company K advanced 200 yards. Then, at 0730, it entered the forbidden zone and 
was pinned to the ground by the enemy fire. The adjoining company on the left, 
raked by enfilading fire from the Crags, was also stopped. Shortly after noon, 
Company K pulled back from along the eastern slope of the northernmost of the 
crags. At the end of the day there had been no gain. 
96th Division Attac\ Stalls 

Meanwhile the 96th Division was attacking farther west, with the 382d 
Regiment on the left (east) and the 381st on the right (west). The 382d Infantry 
had the task of taking Tombstone Ridge and the Tanabaru Escarpment; the 
381st, that of seizing Nishibaru Ridge and the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment beyond. 
The 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, on the division right at the saddle between 
Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges, was a mile ahead of the division left. Facing the 
96th in the Kaniku-Nishibaru sector, the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion, 
which had absorbed the depleted 14th Independent Infantry Battalion, defended 
the center. It had the 1st Light Machine Gun Battalion attached, and altogether 
numbered about 1,200 men. 18 

On the left, the 2d Battalion of the 382d Infantry moved out at 0640 and 
began occupying the series of small hills to the front, only a few of which were 
held by the enemy. Sniper and mortar fire from the Rocky Crags on the left was 
a source of trouble and caused casualties. A few spots of resistance developed but 
were easily overcome. At one point a Japanese popped out of a small roadside 
cave and satchel-charged the lead tank of a column; by a strange quirk the tank 



18 The account of 96th Div operations is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. Ill- 



198 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



toppled over against the hole and closed it. The road was now effectively blocked 
to the other tanks. A few scattered grenade rights took place but did not prevent 
a gain of 800 yards on the division's left. 

Immediately to the right there was no opposition to the advance of the 1st 
Battalion until Company C on the left and Company A on the right started a 
pincer move against the northern tip of Tombstone Ridge, so named because of 
the large number of burial tombs on either side. About seventy-five feet high 
and half a mile long, it was the dominating terrain feature of the vicinity. As 
soon as the two companies moved forward the Japanese positions on the ridge 
broke their silence. Company C was stopped on the east side by machine-gun 
and mortar fire, Company A on the west side by grenades. Artillery and tank 
fire was brought on the position to neutralize it. At noon Company A charged 
up the west slope only to find that it could neither stay on top nor go down the 
other side. The company commander was killed on the crest. In the midst of 
this action a supporting tank was lost to a 47-mm. antitank gun. At the end of 
the day the 1st Battalion held only a precarious position across the northwest 
nose of the ridge and along a portion of the west slope. The crest was nowhere 
tenable and the east side was wholly in the hands of the Japanese. Though 
Tombstone Ridge was unimposing from a distance, it harbored a maze of 
mutually supporting underground positions that opened on either face and 
made it a formidable strong point. 

Up ahead and to the west, Nishibaru Ridge was under attack. This ridge 
was separated by a depression and a ravine, upper Kakazu Gorge, from the 
southern end of Tombstone Ridge, to which it ran at right angles for a mile in 
a generally east-west direction. Nishibaru Ridge was an extension of Kakazu 
Ridge, separated from it by only a wide, shallow saddle, through which passed 
Route 5, the Ginowan-Shuri road. The stream which emptied into Machinato 
Inlet began in the hills northeast of Tanabaru and ran along the northern base 
of Nishibaru and Kakazu Ridges the entire way to the sea, forming at times, 
as in front of Kakazu, a gorge-like bed. 

The 1 st Battalion, 381st Infantry, moved from its position just north of 
Kaniku through the western part of the town and pressed forward into the open, 
despite machine-gun fire from southeast Kaniku. Company C on the left was 
only a short distance from Tombstone Ridge and had a difficult time because of 
enemy fire from this elevation paralleling its course. The company fell behind, 
and soon some of the men were pinned down in the open, unable to continue 
until dark. Huge spigot mortar shells began falling at 1045, adding their tre- 



BATTLE FOR TOMBSTONE RIDGE, li\e many others on Okinawa, did not permit 
much use of heavy armored weapons because of uneven terrain. Above an M-j self-propelled 
105-mm. howitzer, supporting 96th Division troops, fires at a Japanese position. Below, men 
of the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, bend low as they run through burning ruins of western 
Kaniku, ig April. 



200 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



mendous explosions to the din. A part of the battalion reached the northern face 
of Nishibaru Ridge, but even this slight gain was lost when the battalion with- 
drew from the exposed position at the end of the day. 

On the division's right, the 3d Battalion of the 381st Infantry waited for 
thirty-five minutes in its place along the southern bank of the gorge for the 1st 
Battalion, still not in sight; the assault troops of the 3d Battalion then moved 
out, Company K on the left and Company I on the right. As soon as they passed 
over the lip of the gorge embankment, the troops from Company K drew knee- 
mortar, machine-gun, and rifle fire from cave and tomb positions in Nishi- 
baru Ridge. One squad rushed an enemy position, killing five Japanese and 
destroying a machine gun and two knee mortars. But immediately above it a 
second and then a third machine gun opened up, killing four and wounding 
two of the small group. Despite these difficulties two platoons managed by 
0830 to advance over the crest of the ridge as far as the upper edge of the village 
of Nishibaru. Here all progress ended when showers of mortar shells and hand 
grenades formed a frontal barrier and enfilade machine-gun fire from both 
flanks was added. The survivors drew back over the crest and dug in on the 
forward slope, hoping that if they held out there help would come during the 
day. Company K had its third commanding officer in twenty-four hours; the 
first had been killed, the second wounded. 

On the right, the first three men of Company I who tried to cross the 
hump of ground in front of Nishibaru Ridge were one after the other killed. 
Machine-gun fire came from the western end of Nishibaru Ridge directly in 
front and from the nose of Kakazu Ridge across the road to the right front. 
Exposure for even a moment meant death or a wound. It was here that the 96th 
Division joined the 27th Division, the boundary running just west of the 
Ginowan-Shuri road at the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges. Lt. 
Col. D. A. Nolan, Jr., commanding officer of the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, 
realized the necessity for coordinated effort after the morning of death and 
failure. He crossed over to the adjoining unit, Company C, 105th Infantry, 
27th Division, to discuss with Capt. John F. Mulhearn, its commanding officer, 
the possibility of a joint attack using five tanks which Colonel Nolan had avail- 
able. But this proposal could not be acted upon because Captain Mulhearn was 
then preparing, as part of a battalion movement, to start his men around Kakazu 
to the right. It was now midafternoon, and, realizing that he could not hope 
to advance with the Kakazu area on his right front vacated, Colonel Nolan 
obtained authority from his regimental commander, Col. M. E. Halloran, to 




DEATH OF A TANK, series of photos enlarged from a movie film of Okinawa fighting. 
Sherman tan\s, supported by riflemen, are assaulting Japanese cave positions, and in the 
engagement a tan\ is overturned by a Japanese land mine. One of the crew is thrown clear 
by the blast. Infantrymen fight flame with fire extinguishers in an effort to rescue four 
tankmen trapped in vehicle. Before rescue can be effected fire reaches ammunition in the 
tan\, and the resulting explosion leaves only a battered metal hul\. 



202 



OKINAWA; THE LAST BATTLE 



move his men back into the protection of the gorge. 19 Before this withdrawal 
began, one of the five tanks ventured through the saddle between Kakazu and 
Nishibaru Ridges and was immediately destroyed by a swarm of Japanese attack- 
ing with satchel charges from the nose of Nishibaru Ridge. 

Company L came up from reserve to close the gap between the ist and the 
3d Battalions. This movement drew enemy fire, and on reaching the gorge the 
company dug in along the edge. From there it gave fire support for the with- 
drawal of the other companies in front. While it was thus engaged three spigot 
mortar shells fell on the company and buried several men. The number of 
81-mm. mortar shells that fell on the 381st Infantry during the day in front of 
and on Nishibaru Ridge was estimated at 2,200. By 1700 the 3d Battalion had 
suffered eighty-five casualties, including sixteen killed. 20 
Ka\azu Ridge Is Bypassed 

Meanwhile various maneuvers were taking place on the right in the 27th 
Division zone. Following the two battalions of the 106th Infantry that had 
crossed Machinato Inlet under cover of darkness and had established themselves 
before dawn on the western end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, the 3d Bat- 
talion of the 106th left Kakazu West at 0600; it was crossing Machinato Inlet 
when the general attack got under way elsewhere. The battalion mounted the 
escarpment and took a position along the crest between the other two battalions. 
The Reconnaissance Troop was now on the extreme right of the escarpment. 

The only other 27th Division unit on the front line ready to join in the initial 
assault was the ist Battalion of the 105th Infantry. This battalion was deployed 
along Kakazu Gorge, with Kakazu Ridge, immediately in front, its initial objec- 
tive. Company C was on the left, next to the Ginowan-Shuri road; Companies 
B and A, in the order named, were to the west, the latter being initially in reserve. 
The attack of the ist Battalion was planned to combine a frontal assault against 
the ridge with a sweeping tank attack around the east end of Kakazu Ridge. 
The two forces were to meet behind the ridge near the village of Kakazu and to 
join in a drive to the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment beyond. 

The troops began moving up to the ravine on schedule at 0730, fifty minutes 
after the attack began on the east and in the center. At 0823 the leading elements 
were on the crest of a little fold of ground lying a short distance beyond the ravine, 
facing Kakazu Ridge 200 yards away across open ground. Now, as they started to 
move quickly down into the open swale, machine-gun and mortar fire from close 

19 3d Bn, 381st Inf, Unit Jnl, Msg No. 20, 19 Apr 45. 

20 Ibid., Msg No. 21, 19 Apr 45; 381st Inf Jnl, Msg No. 90, 19 Apr 45. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



203 



range struck them. At once there were casualties, and casualties kept mounting. 
Those in the open were pinned down; those behind could not reach them. The 
tip of Kakazu and the western slope of the saddle were ablaze with enemy guns. 

At 0830, just before the infantry left the protection of the little fold in front 
of Kakazu, tanks in groups of three and four in column formation began moving 
across Kakazu Gorge; they then continued southward through the saddle 
between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges. Altogether about thirty tanks, self- 
propelled assault guns, and armored flame throwers moved out of the assembly 
area that morning for a power drive against the Japanese positions, Company A 
of the 193d Tank Battalion making up the major part of the force. Three tanks 
were lost to mines and road hazards in crossing the gorge and the saddle. As the 
tanks moved down the road in column, a 47-mm. antitank gun, firing from a 
covered position to the left on the edge of Nishibaru Ridge, destroyed four tanks 
with sixteen shots, without receiving a single shot in return. The tank column 
hurried on south to look for a faint track leading into Kakazu that had shown 
on aerial photographs : the column missed it, lost another tank to antitank fire, 
and then in error took a second little-used trail farther south and began working 
over enemy positions encountered in the face of the escarpment and in the rela- 
tively flat country to the east of Kakazu. Discovering that they could not reach 
the village from this point, the tanks retraced their way to the main road, turned 
back, found the right trail, and were in Kakazu shortly after 1000. They moved 
around and through the village, spreading fire and destruction; Kakazu was 
completely shot up and burned during the next three hours. Fourteen American 
tanks were destroyed in and around the village, many by mines and 47-mm. 
antitank guns, others by suicide close-attack units, and more by artillery and 
mortar fire. During the day six tanks in the Kakazu-Nishibaru area were de- 
stroyed by suicide attackers using 22-lb. satchel charges, which were usually 
thrown against the bottom plate. A majority of the tank crew members were still 
living after the tanks had been disabled, but many were killed by enemy squads 
that forced the turret lids open and threw in grenades. 21 

21 The account of the tank action is based on Love, 27th Div History; discussion and critique on the 
ground by 1st I & H Off and Co Comdrs, 1st Bn, 105th Inf, and personnel of Co A, 193d Tank Bn, and 
attached flame-thrower units, 5 Jul 45; interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Col Walter A. Jensen, CO, 20th 
Armd Gp, and Ma) Harley T. Kirby, S-2, 20th Armd Gp, 4 Jul 45, recorded in Okinawa Diary, XXIV 
Corps, kept by Maj Roy E. Appleman, XXIV Corps Historical Officer, on file in Hist Div WDSS. Japanese 
- sources for the action are the following: 7th Div PW Interrog Rpt, No. 48, 2 Jul 45; Tenth Army Transl No. 
118, 1 Jun 45: 6zd Division Battle Lesson Dispatch No. 19, 20 Apr 45; Transl No. 189, 28 Jun 45; 
Furuta Combat Intelligence Rpt No. 1 1, 20 Apr 45; 27th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 13, 22 Apr 45. 



204 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



At 1330, since it was now evident that infantry would not be able to reach 
them, the tanks received orders to return to their lines. Of the thirty tanks 
that had maneuvered around the left end of Kakazu Ridge in the morning, 
only eight returned in the afternoon. The loss of twenty-two tanks on 19 April 
in the Kakazu area was the greatest suffered by American armor on Okinawa 
in a single engagement. 22 The tanks had operated wholly without infantry 
support. Four of the twenty-two were armored flame throwers, and this was 
their first day in action. Some crew members of tanks destroyed by antitank 
gun fire dug pits under their tanks and remained hidden forty hours before they 
escaped, incredibly unmolested by the scores of Japanese within 100 yards. 

The Japanese had guessed that a tank-infantry attack would try to penetrate 
their lines between Nishibaru Ridge and Kakazu Ridge, and they had prepared 
carefully for it. Their plan was based on separating the infantry from the tanks. 
The 272^ Independent Infantry Battalion alone devised a fire net of four machine 
guns, two antiaircraft guns, three regimental guns, and the 81-mm. mortars 
of the 2d Mortar Battalion to cover the saddle between the two ridges. The 
machine guns were sited at close range. In addition, two special squads of ten 
men each were sent forward to the saddle for close combat against the infantry. 
One group was almost entirely wiped out; the other had one noncommissioned 
officer wounded and three privates killed. The enemy defense also utilized the 
47-mm. antitank guns of the 22^ Independent Antitank^ Gun Battalion and 
close-quarters suicide assault squads. So thorough were these preparations that 



the Japanese boasted "Not an infantryman got through." (See Map No. XX.) 

It was here in the Kakazu-Urasoe-Mura Escarpment area that the most 
extensive reorganization of Japanese units had taken place just before the 
American attack. The remnants of badly shattered battalions were combined 
into a composite unit of about 1,400 men that consisted largely of members of 
the 272^ Independent Infantry Battalion but also included elements of the 13th, 
i$th, and 23d Battalions. The 21st Independent Infantry Battalion stood ready to 
support the 272^. The 2d Light Machine Gun Battalion added its fire power. 23 

While the tanks were operating alone behind the enemy's lines, the 1st 
Battalion, 105th Infantry, was pinned to the ground in front of Kakazu Ridge. 
A 34-man platoon from Company A that moved out ahead of the main attack 

^Interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Gen Hodge, 6 Jul 45; 713th Tank Bn Actn Rpt Ryukyus, entry 
19 Apr 45. 

23 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62J Division, pp. 5-6; XXIV Corps PW 
Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45. 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



205 



was allowed to pass over Kakazu Ridge undisturbed only to walk into a trap. 
When the platoon reached the northern edge of Kakazu village, the trap was 
sprung. None of the men in the platoon returned during the day, but by separat- 
ing into small groups and hiding in rubble and in tombs most of them escaped 
death. Six men returned to the American lines that night, seventeen made their 
way out the next day, and two more were rescued on 25 April. Eight had been 
killed and others badly wounded. 24 

With the 1 st Battalion of the 105th Infantry completely stopped, the 2d 
Battalion was ordered at 0907 to move up on the boundary at the extreme left 
and apply pressure along the Ginowan-Shuri road. In coming up to reconnoiter 
this ground, the battalion commander was hit four times when he jumped over 
a low stone wall into the Open ground opposite the tip of Kakazu. When the 
2d Battalion finally attacked at 1225 in an attempted movement around to the 
left, it was turned back at the east end of Kakazu Ridge. Simultaneously with 
the movement of the 2d Battalion, the 3d Battalion, which had relieved the 3d, 
106th Infantry, in the morning, moved down from Kakazu West, bypassed 
Kakazu village, and by 1535 had two companies, L and I, on top the Urasoe- 
Mura Escarpment, on the east side of the 106th Infantry. During the afternoon 
the weather had become increasingly unsettled, with high wind and some rain. 

At 1530 Capt. Ernest A. Flemig, who had assumed command of the 2d 
Battalion, 105th Infantry, earlier in the day, asked to be allowed to move around 
the west end of Kakazu Ridge to join the 3d Battalion on the escarpment. This 
permission was given by Col. W. S. Winn, the regimental commander, at 
approximately 1600. The battalion moved off and by 1800 had taken up a 
position on the slope at the base of the escarpment below the 3d Battalion, 105th 
Infantry. At the same time, the 1st Battalion, 105th, was ordered in front of the 
village of Kakazu to become regimental reserve. "Front" as represented by the 
position actually taken by the 1st Battalion was southwest of the village in 
front of the escarpment. Thus by late afternoon the entire Kakazu Ridge front 
had been abandoned by the 105th Infantry. It was just before this shift of posi- 
tions that Colonel Nolan made his suggestion for a joint attack. In front of 
Kakazu Ridge during the day, two battalions of the 105th Regiment had suffered 
158 casualties: the 1st Battalion, 105, and the 2d Battalion, 53. 

On the western end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, the 2d Battalion of the 
106th Infantry tried to work south after its successful night attack; but it ran 

M See Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 171; Love, 27th Div History, p. 185. 




WEST END OF URASOE-MURA ESCARPMENT, area of 2jth Division attach (photo- 
graphed 10 July 1945)' 



ATTACK OF 19 APRIL ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



207 



into a series of cave, tomb, and tunnel positions along the ridge to the west of 
Route 1 and was fought to a standstill. This was the beginning of what later 
became known as the Item Pocket battle. Elsewhere on the escarpment the 
106th was, in general, stopped after its presence was discovered at daybreak. 
Elsewhere on the escarpment the 106th was also unsuccessful in advancing to 
the south, but it did extend its lines to the east to join the 3d Battalion, 105th. 

The bridges across Machinato Inlet were subjected to Japanese artillery and 
mortar attack shortly after daybreak. Direct tank fire silenced a gun firing from 
a cave position in the face of the escarpment, but 320-mm. mortar shells then 
began dropping in the crossing area, known as "Buzz Bomb Bowl." An enemy 
artillery barrage on the crossing area began at 1530, and by 1600 one of the 
Bailey bridges and the ponton bridge were out, only the footbridge remaining. 
This was the beginning of a week-long struggle to keep bridges across the inlet. 

The big attack of 19 April had failed. At no point had there been a break- 
through. Everywhere the Japanese had held and turned back the American 
attack. Even on the west, where the front lines had been advanced a considerable 
distance by the 27th Division, the area gained was mostly unoccupied low 
ground, and when the Japanese positions on the reverse slopes of the escarpment 
were encountered further gain was denied. Everywhere the advance made 
early in the morning represented only an area lying between the line of depar- 
ture and the enemy's fortified positions. As a result of the day's fighting the 
XXIV Corps lost 720 dead, wounded, and missing. 



CHAPTER IX 



Fall of the First Shuri 
Defense Ring 

The mood of the American troops on the morning of 20 April was far dif- 
ferent from what it had been the morning before. The feeling now was one of 
weariness and awareness that breaking through would be slow and costly. The 
most immediate and pressing objective was to consolidate the line for further 
advance and, in particular, to eliminate the gap of approximately a mile that 
existed between the 96th and 27th Divisions when darkness fell. The strong 
Japanese position at Kakazu Ridge lay in the middle of this gap, bypassed by 
the 27th Division, and the heart of the Japanese stronghold was behind it to the 
south. If the enemy could take advantage of the gap he might counterattack and 
reach the rear of both the 27th and 96th Divisions. Two points of view existed 
with regard to bypassing Japanese positions. One was represented by General 
Griner, 27th Division commander, when he ordered that the movement must 
be forward even if it meant bypassing Japanese and mopping them up later. 
The other was expressed by Colonel Halloran, the commanding officer of the 
381st Infantry, 96th Division, when he said on a later occasion: "You cannot 
bypass a Japanese because a Jap does not know when he is bypassed." 1 

The primary responsibility for ensuring that dangerous gaps did not develop 
between units, and that the attack along unit boundaries was coordinated, rested 
upon the unit commander on the right. 2 The large gap in the 27th Division zone 
must have alarmed General Griner, since after dark, at 1930, he ordered Com- 
pany B, 165th Infantry, to take up a position in front of Kakazu Ridge. 

hem Pocket 

In accordance with General Griner's plan, Col. Gerard W. Kelley, com- 
mander of the 165th Infantry, on 20 April had two battalions abreast and ready 
to attack on the right of the 27th Division line. The 1st Battalion, commanded 

1 Love, 27th Div History, p. 180. 

2 XXIV Corps FO No. 47, 16 Apr 45, p. 6. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 209 

by Lt. Col. James H. Mahoney, was on the left, and the 2d Battalion, under Lt. 
Col. John McDonough, on the right. A mile southwest of the 165th lay Machinato 
airfield and three miles beyond the airfield was Naha — both important objectives. 
Although photographs and maps did not reveal to any precise degree the strength 
of the Japanese or the nature of the terrain, regimental headquarters was opti- 
mistic. On the morning of the 20th Lt. Col. Joseph T. Hart, regimental executive 
officer, brought out a large green sign, "CONROY FIELD," in honor of the 
i65th's commander killed on Makin, and announced that he expected to nail it 
up at Machinato airfield by evening. He added that the regiment would "hold 
a dance in Naha on Saturday night." 3 
Item Pocket Blocks the Way 

Such hopes proved to be illusory before the fighting of 20 April was more 
than a few hours old. Almost immediately the regiment hit intense resistance 
in rough ground north of Gusukuma. When the 1st Battalion drove south along 
Route 1, the Japanese entrenched in this area cut off the forward elements with 
heavy mortar and machine-gun fire, killing five and wounding twenty-two. Only 
by dogged efforts was the battalion able to reach a point east of Gusukuma by 
nightfall. It had then lost contact with the 2d Battalion, which was meeting 



equally stiff resistance west of the Japanese position. |(See Map No. XXI.) 

The center of the Japanese resistance lay in the I section of Target Area 7777, 
which came to be called "Item Pocket" — in military terminology I is called Item. 
Actually, the pocket was the hub of the enemy position; from it, like spokes of a 
giant wheel, extended four low ridges, separated from each other by ravines and 
rice paddies. Potter's Ridge ran north from the hub, Charlie Ridge to the north- 
east, Gusukuma Ridge to the southeast, and Ryan Ridge to the southwest. Lying 
between Gusukuma and Charlie Ridges and sloping to the east was a cone-shaped 
hill called by Americans "Brewer's Hill." A gulch ran along each side of the hill — 
Anderson's Gulch on the north and Dead Horse Gulch on the south. Both ran in 
an easterly direction, crossing Route 1 at small bridges just north of Gusukuma. 
The ground was superbly suited for active defense. Typical Japanese positions 
were connected by tunnels along the sides and under the crests of the ridges; 
Ryan Ridge, in particular, was honeycombed with such defenses. From Item 
Pocket the enemy had excellent command both of the coastal areas to the north 
and west and of the open land to the east where Route 1 ran north-south. The 
Japanese had long been aware of the defensive value of this position against 



3 The account of the 165th Infantry in Item Pocket is taken from Love, 27th Div History, Pt. VI. 



210 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



either a beach landing on the northwest or an attack from the north. Months 
before the Americans landed, Japanese troops and Okinawan laborers were bor- 
ing tunnels and establishing elaborate living quarters and aid stations. The area 
was held by two companies of the 21st Independent Infantry Battalion of the 
64th Brigade, 6id Division, supported by an antitank company, a machine gun 
company, and elements of antiaircraft, artillery, and mortar units. At least 600 
Japanese occupied the Pocket, reinforced by several hundred Okinawans. 

Infantrymen of the 2d Battalion, 165th Infantry, operating on the right of 
the 1 st Battalion, cleaned out a system of dugouts and tunnels on the southeast 
nose of Potter's Ridge on the 20th but Colonel McDonough's men made little 
more progress after that day. When the 2d started a pivoting movement to join up 
with the 1 st Battalion on its left, the troops came under intense flanking fire from 
the left rear out of the Pocket. Japanese mortars on Ryan Ridge knocked out the 
machine gunners when they tried to lay down covering fire. The troops retreated 
to Potter's Ridge after several hours' fighting which cost them twelve casualties. 

Farther to the west infantrymen managed to reach Fox Ridge, a low rise due 
west of the hub of the Pocket. Colonel McDonough then ordered Company E 
on his extreme right to use Fox Ridge as cover and to attack south to seize Ryan 
Ridge. The leading platoon was well up on the slope of Ryan when Japanese 
on top opened up with mortars, machine guns, and artillery, cutting off the rest 
of Company E. While the company commander, his clothes torn by bullets, and 
the rest of the company straggled back to Fox Ridge, the leading platoon con- 
tinued doggedly ahead. Its leader, T/Sgt. Earnest L. Schoeff, managed to reach 
the top with eight of his men despite almost constant fire. He was ordered by 
radio to hold until relief came. The men hugged the ground as darkness slowly 
descended. Then from three directions from fifty to sixty heavily armed Japanese 
set upon the Americans. In wild hand-to-hand fighting the nine men beat off 
the attack. Pfc. Paul R. Cook fired four cases of ammunition into the enemy, 
shooting down at least ten before he was killed. With grenades, rifle butts, and 
the enemy's own weapons, Schoeff and his men killed another dozen before the 
Japanese withdrew. With two of his men killed, another missing, and two 
wounded, Schoeff led the survivors back to his company during the night. 

At 0630 on 21 April the 2d Battalion launched another attack across the 
mouth of Item Pocket. The troops were supported by antitank guns which had 
been unloaded at the sea wall, hand carried almost 1,000 yards, and set up to fire 
directly into the hub of the Pocket. Within ten minutes the entire left of the 
battalion line was pinned down. Efforts to advance against interlocking lanes 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



211 



of fire were fruitless and the men withdrew to Potter's Ridge later in the morn- 
ing. During the afternoon troops on the battalion's right, protected from Item 
Pocket by Fox Ridge, moved several hundred yards along the coast on amphibian 
tractors. But an attack east toward the Pocket was abortive. As soon as the infan- 
try climbed over the sea wall, the enemy blazed forth from Ryan Ridge with 
light artillery pieces and small arms. The first rounds were wild, and every man 
scrambled back safely over the wall. Another attempt under such conditions 
seemed out of the question. Again the troops pulled back to Fox Ridge. (See 
Map No. XXIL)1 

Thus with little difficulty the Japanese defending the western approaches 
of Item Pocket repulsed the Americans on 21 April. The enemy's defense was 
equally effective on the east. Here the 1st Battalion had a major supply problem 
on its hands. Two blown bridges along Route 1 east of the Pocket were holding 
up vehicles of support units. During the previous night, fire from the Pocket had 
driven off an engineer platoon working at the site and killed the platoon leader. 
Early on the 21st Lieutenant Golden, the Bailey bridge expert, came up with ten 
truckloads of material. His engineers worked for an hour but had to stop in the 
face of almost ceaseless fire from the Pocket. 

Colonel Kelley then ordered scouts to find another stream crossing. A bull- 
dozer cut a bypass around Anderson's Gulch near the railroad, but when, about 
1000, the operator nosed his machine out in the open, he was shot in the ear. 
General Griner, in Colonel Kelley's observation post at the time, ordered 
Lt. Col. Walter F. Anderson, commander of the 193d Tank Battalion, to push 
the bypass through. Anderson himself climbed into his battalion's sole remaining 
"tank-dozer" and completed the bypass. A 47-mm. antitank gun, hitherto silent, 
scored a direct hit on Anderson's tank, killing him and a guide. The bypass 
was now blocked and had to be abandoned. 

This break-down in supply over Route 1 seriously affected operations east 
of Gusukuma. Colonel Mahoney's 1st Battalion attacked southwest early on the 
21st into Gusukuma, but without tanks or cannon the troops made little ground 
against machine guns in the village and fire from Item Pocket on the right rear. 
Mahoney's left company did reach a point 400 yards north of the village of 
Yafusu — the farthest advance yet registered by XXIV Corps since 19 April — but 
here the troops were stopped by a network of enemy positions. 
Fight of Dead Horse Gulch 

Colonel Kelley, back at his headquarters, was becoming increasingly worried 
about the wide vertical gap between his 1st and 2d Battalions. Early on 21 April 




ITEM POCKET AREA (photographed 10 July 1945), which the 2jth Division spent nine 
days in taking. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



213 



he decided to commit his 3d Battalion, under Lt. Col. Dennis D. Claire, in a move 
designed to plug the gap and break into Item Pocket in one blow. Using Route 1 
as its line of departure, Company L was to push west through Dead Horse Gulch, 
outflanking the Japanese covering Anderson's Gulch. Simultaneously Company 
K, on L's left, would attack northwest toward the Pocket along Gusukuma 
Ridge. Even moving into the line of departure was so difficult in this area swept 
by fire from artillery, spigot mortars, and light arms that it was 1515 before the 
battalion attacked. 

Under a heavy smoke screen, Company L advanced along Dead Horse 
Gulch. In forty-five minutes the infantry was pinned flat to the ground under a 
hail of light-arms fire. The men could only crawl into holes. When the smoke 
cleared, Japanese machine gunners worked over the area. At dusk the company 
retreated down the gulch. 

Company K, commanded by Capt. Howard E. Betts, Jr., was the other 
prong of the battalion attack. The company skirted the eastern edge of Gusu- 
kuma under heavy fire and drove up to the crest of Gusukuma Ridge. From 
here Captain Betts launched an attack down into Dead Horse Gulch with one 
platoon and sent the other along the crest of the ridge to cover the men on the 
low ground. In a savage encounter Company K fought its way almost into the 
heart of the Pocket. But the odds were against it; within an hour it had lost 6 
men killed, 3 missing, and 15 wounded. The troops could advance no farther 
against the virtually intact Japanese defenses. Under cover of smoke and twi- 
light, Betts pulled his men back to the crest of Gusukuma Ridge. He was forced 
to leave behind several of his wounded, who crawled into caves. A squad leader, 
himself wounded twice, tried to evacuate these men, but he was hit four times 
in the attempt and later died. 

Company K had hardly begun digging in on the rocky crest of Gusukuma 
Ridge when the Japanese began a series of attacks that lasted four hours. The 
first, well-supported by enemy artillery, was driven off by the troops and artillery, 
but all men still in the gulch were killed in the onslaught. Low on ammunition 
and unable to evacuate the wounded, the men of Company K hung on under 
heavy fire and incessant sniping. At 2300 the enemy launched an all-out attack, 
striking simultaneously from Gusukuma and from the gulch. The Japanese 
overran and captured two machine guns and turned them on the outnumbered 
and disorganized Americans. Betts managed to pull his remaining men back to 
the 1 st Battalion line, 200 yards to the south. Company K was now down to half- 
strength. 



214 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The engagement had a grim aftermath. Early the next morning the Jap- 
anese attacked the caves in Dead Horse Gulch where some wounded Americans 
had hidden. With grenades and bonfires the Japanese forced some of the Ameri- 
cans into the open, where they were shot; the others were stifled to death inside. 

On 22 April General Griner, who was mainly concerned with coordinating 
the movements of his 105th Infantry with the 96th Division on the left (east) 
and was not too much impressed by the strength of the enemy in Item Pocket, 
ordered Colonel Kelley to hold and improve his positions. In conjunction with 
the 106th on his left, Kelley therefore shortened his 1st Battalion line to present 
a more compact front. A heavy air strike was delivered on the Pocket without 
major effect. Patrol action was intensified. All remaining Japanese were cleared 
out of Potter and Charlie Ridges. Artillery, well registered in, prevented the 
enemy from retaking any ground j~(See Map No. XXIII.)| 

The patrols brought back information on Japanese dispositions, providing 
the basis for the next day's plan. Under that plan Company I was to attack from 
the nose of Potter's Ridge across the mouth of the Pocket and seize the face of 
Ryan Ridge. Meanwhile Company C would send a platoon over Brewer's Hill 
and down into the heart of the Pocket. Then Company I was to consolidate its 
hold on Ryan and, together with Company K, drive along Ryan Ridge to 
Machinato airfield. A special assault squad was set up to establish the all- 
important "beachhead" on the face of Ryan Ridge. Commanded by S/Sgt. 
Howard Lewis, this squad consisted of twelve men, heavily armed with BAR's, 
rifles, bazookas, demolitions, and a portable flame thrower. 

Early next morning, the 23d, Sergeant Lewis worked his squad through the 
tombs on the nose of Potter's Ridge to the bare flat ground at the base. A Japanese 
mortarman opened fire on them from the top of Ryan Ridge just above the 
center of the Pocket. Sergeant Lewis spotted the position and sent his men 
toward it as their first objective. One by one the men sprinted toward Ryan Ridge. 
Two Japanese machine guns opened up. The lead man, together with most of 
the squad, took cover at the base of Ryan. Below, other enemy machine guns 
were firing. Lewis was now cut off from reinforcement. 

Climbing from rock to rock on the craggy nose of Ryan Ridge, the squad 
made its way to within forty yards of the mortar position. A shower of potato- 
masher grenades stopped the advance. Lewis deployed his squad, sending four 
to the right and two to the left and bringing up his bazooka man for direct fire 
into the position. Advance was impossible; the area now seemed to be swarming 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



215 



with Japanese trying to move in to finish off the squad. Crawling from rock to 
rock in Indian fashion, the Americans held them off. Lewis called for artillery 
fire within forty yards of his position. The rest of Company I, still waiting 
on Potter's Ridge, put long-range fire on the enemy. The enemy replied with 
machine guns and mortars. The Pocket was an inferno of bursting shells and 
of rifle and machine-gun fire. 

For three hours Lewis and his men held out, but it was a hopeless fight. 
At 1300 he called his company on the radio and said that he had only three 
men left capable of fighting, three being dead and seven wounded. The 
supporting platoon from Company I had been stopped short. The platoon from 
Company C had reached the crest of Brewer's Hill but had not been able to 
climb down the steep side. The troops lowered charges on ropes over the side 
and set them off at the cave entrances, but the charges seemed to make little 
impression. Lewis received orders to pull back with his wounded. Two more 
Americans were hit on the way back, but most of the wounded were brought 
out. Only Lewis and one other man returned un wounded. 

Item Pocket — on the fourth day of the assault — was still in enemy hands. 
Captain Ryan's Raiders, 24-25 April 

The man on whom most now depended was Capt. Bernard Ryan, com- 
manding Company F, 165th Infantry. Subjected nightly to intense artillery 
concentrations, harassed by numerous enemy patrols in force, compelled to 
evacuate his wounded and bring in his supplies by water around Kezu Point, 
lacking direct fire support except from his own mortars, Captain Ryan had 
operated largely on his own initiative. From 20 to 24 April he had watched 
Companies E, G, K, and I assault the Pocket from different directions. He 
correctly reasoned on 24 April that his turn would be next. 

Captain Ryan proposed to Colonel Claire a plan calling for an attack by 
Company F at 0200 on the following day, 25 April, along the same general 
route as had been followed by Company E on 20 April. This plan was accepted 
by higher headquarters. Ryan was therefore astonished to receive a telephone 
call from Colonel Claire at 1900 on 24 April, ordering him to attack Ryan 
Ridge in one hour over an entirely different route — that followed by Sergeant 
Lewis on the 23d. There had been a hopeless mix-up of orders. 

It was now necessary for Captain Ryan to execute a complete change of dis- 
positions and attack preparations in the dark. He was calling together platoon 
leaders for a new briefing when the regular evening barrage began landing in 
his company. Soon his communications were out and his men pinned down. 




HEART OF ITEM POCKET, looking north from Gusu\uma Ridge. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



217 



Later, a series of patrol actions by the enemy slowed his reorganization. In the 
morning, when Colonel Kelley discovered that Ryan Ridge was still in enemy 
hands, he ordered Colonel Claire to attack immediately and secure the ridge. 
Claire felt that the task was impossible and demurred. Kelley thereupon relieved 
Claire, and Maj. Herman M. Lutz, executive officer, assumed command. Kelley 
ordered Lutz to attack at 0630; Lutz decided to use Ryan's original plan. 

Captain Ryan realized that the chief obstacles were the Japanese positions 
in Ryan Ridge and in the heart of the Pocket. From these positions the enemy 
dominated much of the area between Ryan and Fox Ridges. Captain Ryan's key 
to the problem was artillery fire. He reasoned that, since the direction of fire of 
supporting artillery would be perpendicular to his direction of attack, and the 
greatest possible lateral deviation would be fifteen yards, he need not worry about 
overs or shorts. He ordered a 20-minute preparation on the slopes of the ridge. 
In briefing his company Ryan stressed the need for a speedy ground attack to 
exploit the artillery support. The mission would put heavy demands on a com- 
pany that was tired, undermanned, and low on food, water, and ammunition. 

The two assault platoons of Company F started off at a dead run the moment 
the first shells were fired on the morning of the 25th. Mortars, machine guns, 
and antitank guns supported them. The attacking infantry was thinned out by 
enemy fire and natural obstacles, but thirty-one reached the top of Ryan Ridge. 
They found themselves perched atop a rugged razorback, full of rocks, holes, 
and blasted vegetation. As the artillery fire receded, Japanese began emerging 
from "spider holes," pillboxes, caves, and tunnels. The thirty-one Americans were 
ready for them. In twenty minutes of fighting similar to previous encounters on 
Item Pocket ridge tops they killed thirty-five Japanese and chased a larger num- 
ber off the ridge. Five of the Americans were killed and two were wounded. 

The crux of the situation lay in Captain Ryan's ability to consolidate his 
position; repeatedly units had gained footholds on these ridges, only to lose them 
to the enemy. By late afternoon the twenty-four effectives on the ridge had an 
average of only six rounds of rifle ammunition. They had no medical supplies, 
and all the aid men were casualties. Radio communication was out. The Japanese, 
after their first unsuccessful sortie, had rigged a noose around the perimeter and 
were slowly tightening it. Holding the ridge now depended on Ryan's initiative. 

Ryan fully understood the critical situation. He arranged for Company I 
to be moved around to his right flank. He planned to repeat the move that had 
worked so well in the morning. At 1605, fifteen minutes after artillery support 
opened up, Ryan and the rest of the company reached the crest, suffering five 



2l8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



casualties on the way. Company I failed to make the top, having been cut off on 
the slopes. After reorganizing his company Ryan departed with two men to find 
reinforcements — a risky mission in the dark. Company I was still unable to move 
up, but Captain Betts of Company K was quick to help. By midnight all of 
Company K were on the ridge. 

With more than a hundred men now on the ridge, Ryan and Betts could 
take the offensive. During the morning of the 26th they swept along the crest 
of Ryan Ridge in opposite directions. Company F advanced rapidly southwest to 
a point just opposite the north end of Machinato airstrip. Betts made some prog- 
ress, then ran into heavy fire near the nose of Ryan Ridge and built up a defensive 
position. The main task now was systematic burning out and blowing up of caves 
on the western slope of the ridge. The Japanese still held several areas in Item 
Pocket, but the Americans were on Ryan Ridge to stay. The 165th could now 
establish an unbroken regimental line and prepare to continue the advance south. 
Item Pocket Reduced, 26-27 April 

Captain Ryan's attack on the 25th coincided with an assault launched south- 
west of Ryan Ridge on Gusukuma by other companies of the 165th. In bitter 
fighting that lasted all day the troops moved from wall to wall and tree to tree 
into the debris of Gusukuma. At one time Company A was receiving fire from 
eight machine guns, at least one 47-mm. antitank gun, and mortars. Much of it 
came from the eastern slope of Ryan Ridge, not yet reduced. Riflemen made the 
main effort. One of them, Pfc Richard King of Company A, killed a Japanese 
tied in the crotch of a tree, sat on a limb beside the dead sniper, and killed ten 
enemy soldiers before nightfall. 

Fighting in and around Item Pocket raged on through the 26th. American 
troops were now pressing in on the heart of the Pocket from all directions. 
Casualties were still running high. On the 26th, a full week after the 165th began 
its attack, the regiment, as a result of enemy fire on Route 1, was still operating 
without tanks or self-propelled mounts. Attack after attack by the infantry slowly 
constricted the Japanese-held area. By the night of the 26th the enemy had been 
cleaned out of Gusukuma, Ryan Ridge, and all the area west of the Pocket. 
Cave positions commanding the key bridges on Route 1 were sealed off, and 
engineers then resumed work. 

The first two tanks to arrive south of the Pocket on the 27th were quickly 
knocked out by 47-mm. gunfire. Succeeding tanks worked with the infantry 
in reducing the remaining positions. Pfc. Alejandro C. Ruiz of Company A ad- 
ministered the final blow to Item Pocket. Exasperated by machine-gun fire and 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



219 



grenades which had wounded seven of his comrades, Ruiz seized a BAR and 
charged headlong into die remaining Japanese positions. He moved from cave 
to cave, killing the enemy within. At 1637 on 27 April the Pocket was declared 
secure. Many Japanese, however, remained; weeks later they were still emerging 
from the deep caves and tunnels. 

General Griner had become increasingly distressed over the slow progress 
of the 165th. He was especially disturbed,, by the confused disposition of the 
regiment; disorganization had begun as early as 21 April and had increased as 
Colonel Kelley was forced to split up battalions and detach companies for various 
missions. On 27 April General Griner, on authority from General Hodge, 
relieved Colonel Kelley from command of the 165th. 

Assaulting the Outer Shuri Defense Ring 

While the reduction of Item Pocket was in progress, the 7th, 27th, and 
96th Divisions were trying to break through the outer Shuri defense ring. The 
results of the intense action of 19 April had been disappointing. The day's 
fighting had shown that further advance would be very difficult, and this was 
confirmed by the difficult fighting between the 20th and 24th. 

The Japanese outer defenses to the Shuri line were anchored along a hilly 
mass which extended across the island in a northwesterly direction from the 
village of Ouki on the east to Machinato Inlet on the west. Behind this mass 
and echeloned to the right was the formidable Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, the 
western anchor of the Japanese line. A series of dominating hills which formed 
natural defensive positions — Skyline Ridge, Hill 178 (the highest point), 
Tanabaru, and Nishibaru and Kakazu Ridges — stretched along the crest of this 
hilly mass, and formed the core of the Japanese defense system. The approaches 
to this system were covered by a number of forward positions which, like Rocky 
Crags and Tombstone Ridge, were well adapted to the terrain. (See Map 
No. XiX.)| 

Facing the 7th Division on the east was Skyline Ridge, barring passage 
along the coast. On the right of the division was Rocky Crags. Between the two 
was a series of concrete blockhouses and strong points which guarded the 
approaches to Hill 178. In the center of the Corps line, on the 96th Division 
front, was Nishibaru Ridge — an extension of Kakazu Ridge— and Tombstone 
Ridge, the northwestern slopes of which were held by the 382d Infantry. On 
the west, in the area held by the 27th Division, was Kakazu Ridge. The Japanese 



220 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



atop this ridge commanded Nishibaru's western slopes and covered the 96th 
Division's right flank. In the Kakazu area a gap had developed between the two 
divisions, and the closing of this gap was to entail the reduction of Kakazu Ridge. 

The fighting between 20 and 24 April was to be as difficult as any during 
the campaign. These days were marked by incessant heavy attack against cave, 
tomb, tunnel, and dug-in positions with mutually supporting fields of fire. 
Mortar and artillery fire and armored flame throwers were used extensively, and 
the infantry engaged in costly assaults and hand-grenade duels at close range. 
The enemy did not give a single foot of ground; he fought until he was killed. 
During the first four days there was no material gain over most of the line, 
except for a few local penetrations. But on the 24th, after a sustained onslaught 
of four days of heroic effort against Skyline Ridge, Rocky Crags, and equally 
formidable barriers, the Americans moved into positions — among them Kakazu 
Ridge — in the first Shuri defense ring. 
Skyline Battle 

The attack of the 7th Division on Ouki Hill had been stopped on 19 April 
after hard and bitter fighting. 4 This was only the beginning of the struggle for 
Skyline Ridge, and, in order to see in proper perspective the events of 20 to 
24 April, the action of the 7th on 19 April must be reconsidered in detail. (See 
Map No. XXI77)1 

At 0640 on 19 April, with Company G on the left and Company F on the 
right, the 2d Battalion of the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, led the advance along 
high ground toward Ouki Hill. 5 Company G of the 32d Infantry trailed at the 
left rear. The troops had advanced 500 yards when the first mortar shells fell. 
Quickly the number increased, and machine-gun fire was added; at 0830, 400 
yards short of Ouki Hill, the advance stopped. The troops had reached the 
forbidden zone. The Japanese nth Independent Infantry Battalion with attached 
units was defending Skyline Ridge, the anchor of the enemy line, which fell 
off from Ouki Hill to Buckner Bay. This battalion had received a unit citation 
during the China war. Composed of five rifle companies and attached gun, 
machine gun, and mortar companies, it had numbered about 1,400 men on 1 
April, but by 19 April it had been reduced to from 800 to 1,000 men. In arranging 

4 See above, [pp. ig6— 97T] 

* The account of operations of the 7th Division at Skyline Ridge is, unless otherwise noted, taken from 
Gugeler, 7th Div History; 7th Div G-3 Jnl, G— 2 Jnl, and Periodic Rpts; 32d Inf Unit Jnl and Opn Rpt; 
Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division; XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 
54, 6 May 45 (Kimura). 




SKYLINE RIDGE as seen from an observation plane. Ou\i Hill and Hill Ij8 are beyond 
the top of Skyline. Photo below shows smo\e cover being placed on reverse slope of Skyline 
during the fighting of 22 April. Note tanks ( arrows ) and American troops on lower knob of 
Tomb Hill (foreground) . 




222 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the defenses of Skyline Ridge the Japanese placed most of their machine guns 
on the forward (north) face and on the northern and eastern slopes of Ouki 
Hill. The 8i-mm. mortars were on the reverse (southern) slope of Hill 178 to 
the west of the battalion guns. 

After a delay of fifteen minutes, 1st Lt. Daniel R. Leffel, commanding Com- 
pany G, 184th Infantry, sent a squad under S/Sgt. Gordon P. Foster to feel out 
the enemy. Keeping close to the ground, the men had moved slowly forward 
fifty yards when a Japanese machine gun and enemy riflemen a few yards away 
fired point-blank into them, killing Foster and four others with the first spray 
of bullets. Pfc. Kenneth J. Klawitter was wounded seriously but could not be 
reached by the rest of the squad. Lieutenant Leffel radioed for a flame tank. 
T/Sgt. Garret Schultz, acting 1st Sergeant, tried to rescue Klawitter but was 
shot in the side as he started to bring him back. Both men then hugged the earth 
for such protection as it gave. Each move of Company G brought an enemy 
mortar concentration immediately. Company G, 32d Infantry, on the left (east), 
also was stopped. 

Down below along the coastal flat Company I, 32d Infantry, 7th Division, 
went through Ouki and, following tanks and armored flame throwers, moved 
against the lower tip of Skyline Ridge, while Company L maneuvered into 
position on the right (west) for a frontal attack against the ridge. One platoon 
of Company I assaulted the nose of the ridge after the flame tanks backed away, 
found that all Japanese at this point had been killed, and occupied the forward 
face of the tip at 0710. Mortar fire covered the crest and prevented further gain. 
By this time the leading platoon of Company L, under 1st Lt. Lawrence T. 
O'Brien, had climbed up the slope of Skyline to the right (west) and started 
west along the side of the ridge. One hundred yards ahead a northward jog 
in the ridge and a dip in the crest allowed the enemy on the reverse slope to fire 
eastward through the dip to the forward face of Skyline. Machine-gun fire, 
directed against O'Brien's platoon, now came through the depression, and 
O'Brien and his men dashed to an abandoned pillbox on the crest. This brought 
the platoon within grenade range of Japanese on the other side, and the men were 
forced to scatter. Knee mortar shells began to fall, plummeting almost straight 
down. Watching the sky, the men could see the descent of the small black 
objects in time to dash from the calculated point of impact. 

To the right of O'Brien's men another platoon of Company L started up the 
slope and came into the line of fire of a machine gun that kept silent until the 
men were exposed. With its first burst the gun wounded nine men, almost half 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



223 



the platoon, which fell back disorganized to the base of the ridge. Meanwhile 
the third platoon of Company L, which had taken refuge from mortar fire in 
burial tombs near the lower tip of the ridge, was trapped inside by a Japanese 
machine gun that put a band of fire across the entrances of the tombs when 
anyone tried to get out. In the Ouki coastal area combat patrols of Company B 
protected the regiment's left flank, encountering several strong points and 
killing numerous enemy soldiers. 

Just before 1200 a platoon from Company K, west of O'Brien's position, 
reached a point within ten feet of the crest of Skyline Ridge. Japanese on the 
reverse slope made it impossible to occupy the crest, which was just wide enough 
for a footpath, and only glimpses of the southern side could be secured by a 
momentary raising of the head. Fortunately the slope of the ridge was so 
steep that most of the grenades coming over the top rolled down the incline 
before they exploded. The Company K platoon was hit almost immediately 
by a counterattack of about fifty Japanese who crawled up on the reverse slope 
and began to throw grenades. Artillery was called for to help repel the counter- 
attack, but four rounds fell short and killed or wounded most of the platoon. 
Another platoon was sent forward at once to replace it. Before it could dig in 
it was struck by a second counterattack of more than a hundred Japanese. 
The attackers pressed forward through their own mortar fire to a point just 
under the crest on the south side and engaged in a close-quarters grenade 
battle. The knife-edge crest of Skyline Ridge now looked from a distance as 
though it were smoldering. This close fight lasted for an hour, and at the end 
all of the second platoon had been killed or wounded but six men, who dropped 
back to the base of the ridge. 

Meanwhile enemy pressure against O'Brien's men down the ridge to the 
left had not lessened, and it was evident at 1330 that the 3d Battalion did not 
have enough strength to push ahead. There were not more than twenty-five 
men of Companies L and K left on Skyline Ridge. These men were trying 
grimly to hold on in the hope that the 2d Battalion, higher up on the approach 
to Ouki Hill, could get through and start a drive down toward them, or that 
the platoon cooped up in the tombs below could escape and help. 

During all this time the troops in front of Ouki Hill had made no progress. 
A flame tank had come up and burned out the position encountered by the 
unlucky squad in the morning, and on its way back it had picked up Klawitter 
and Schultz, who, badly wounded, had been near the enemy machine gun. 
Schultz died on the way to the rear. 



224 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



At 1525 the G Companies of the 32a 1 and 184th Regiments undertook to 
resume the attack which had been stalemated since early morning, but with 
no great promise of success. Along the base of Ouki Hill both companies were 
pinned to the ground at 1620 by an extremely heavy enemy 81-mm. mortar 
concentration. Amid the din of exploding mortars slivers of flying metal filled 
the air. In small groups or singly the men dashed back in short spurts toward 
their former position. Many were killed instantly while in flight. One man 
running wildly back toward safety stopped suddenly and assumed what 
appeared to be an attitude of prayer. In the next instant he was blown to bits 
by a direct hit. 6 

There was now no hope that the remnant of the 3d Battalion near the bottom 
of Skyline Ridge could stay there, and by 1730 the exhausted men had pulled 
back to their starting point of the morning. The 3d Battalion had lost approxi- 
mately one hundred men along Skyline Ridge during the day. At 2000 the 32d 
Infantry was ordered by General Arnold to resume the attack at 0730 the next 
morning. Rain, which had begun in the afternoon, continued steadily on into 
the night. 

Though American disappointment was keen and losses heavy in the Sky- 
line Ridge fight on 19 April, it was not a one-sided affair. During the day the 1st 
and $th Companies of the defending Japanese battalion had been all but annihi- 
lated. The 1st Company was wiped out when a tank fired into a cave, setting of! 
satchel charges and killing most of the men, whereupon the company com- 
mander committed suicide. The other three companies of the battalion were 
reduced to about fifty men each in the battles for Hill 178, Ouki Hill, and Sky- 
line Ridge. The machine gun and battalion gun companies each had about eighty 
men left. 

On 20 April the attack centered against Ouki Hill. Skyline Ridge itself was 
left alone after the experience of the day before. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, 
and Company G, 32d Infantry, moving out at 0730, were checked almost at 
once by enemy mortar and machine-gun fire, and the situation remained stale- 
mated all morning. Two armored flame throwers, however, successfully pene- 
trated 400 yards in front of the infantry to burn out an enemy mortar position 
on the west slope of Ouki Hill. This led Lt. Col. Roy A. Green of the 184th to 
call Col. John M. Finn of the 32d Infantry and obtain his approval of a plan for 
covering the Japanese positions on Ouki Hill and the eastern part of Hill 178 

8 Personal Obsn of Capt Gugeler, 7th Div Historian. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



225 



with a mortar concentration and smoke while blanketing Skyline Ridge with a 
4.2-inch chemical mortar barrage, as a prelude to an attack on Ouki Hill in which 
tanks would precede the infantry. Company G of the 184th, now down to nine- 
teen riflemen, was attached as a platoon to Company G of the 32d Infantry for 
the assault. It was launched at 1445. 

The Japanese, blinded by the smoke, apparently did not see the advancing 
troops until they were on the lower slopes of Ouki Hill. Heavy mortar fire then 
began to fall, threatening to break up the American attack. At the critical 
moment 1st Lt. John J. Holm and S/Sgt. James R. W. McCarthy, the platoon 
leader and the platoon sergeant of the leading platoon, scrambled on toward 
the top of the hill, yelling to the others to follow. Individually and in groups of 
two's and three's the men responded, and a feeble line was built up just under 
the crest. It was none too soon, for a counterattack struck immediately from the 
other side. Both Holm and McCarthy were among those killed, but the Japanese 
were repulsed and lost thirty-five killed. Just before dark a platoon from Com- 
pany F, 184th Infantry, joined the little group on Ouki Hill from the American 
lines 400 yards to the rear. Tanks brought supplies to the isolated men, and half- 
tracks evacuated the wounded. The Japanese shelled the forward face of the hill 
throughout the night. Five men were killed and eighteen wounded, all in their 
foxholes; the two company commanders and several platoon leaders were 
among the casualties. Before dawn the enemy made another counterattack; 
although some Japanese came close enough to throw satchel charges, the attack 
was repulsed. 

During the night Japanese with light machine guns infiltrated behind Com- 
pany G's lines, and at an opportune moment on the morning of 21 April they 
opened fire, killing or wounding nine men before being killed themselves by 
tanks and armored flame throwers. It was nearly 0900 before Company F, ham- 
pered by enemy mortar and artillery fire, was able to start the attack down Skyline 
Ridge. At first there was no resistance, and within forty-five minutes the men 
reached a deep road cut through the middle part of the ridge. Here they were 
halted by mortar fire. Company E, 32d Infantry, coming up on the left (east), 
was stopped in the cut by a Japanese machine gun emplaced on the narrow crest 
and by grenades that were rolled down on the leading third platoon. The mortar 
section then adjusted on a point where Japanese had been seen, not more than 
twenty yards ahead of the foremost man. (See Map No. XXV.) 

At 1230 General Arnold, 7th Division commander, arrived at Colonel Finn's 
observation post. A discussion of the situation led these commanders to conclude 



226 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



that it would be best to delay assault on the lower half of Skyline Ridge until the 
fall of Hill 178, which would make the enemy's position on the lower ground 
untenable. Orders to this effect were received by Maj. John H. Duncan, com- 
manding the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, a few minutes after 1400. The order was 
nullified, however, by an incident then taking place. 

When, east of the road cut, a man in the stalled third platoon, Company E, 
was killed, Sgt. Theodore R. MacDonnell, a 91st Chemical Mortar Company 
observer, was impelled to drastic action. MacDonnell had frequently joined men 
on the line and shown qualities of a determined infantryman. Now, infuriated, 
he gathered up a handful of grenades and ran in the face of the machine-gun 
fire along the slope to a point underneath the spot where he believed the enemy 
gun to be located, and then started up the 20-foot embankment. When he looked 
over the crest he failed to spot the gun, but he did see three enemy soldiers and 
grenaded them. He made two trips to the bottom of the embankment for fresh 
supplies of grenades, but it was not until his third trip to the crest that he located 
the machine gun. MacDonnell then slid back to the bottom, grabbed a BAR, and 
mounted the embankment with it, only to have the weapon jam after the first 
shot. He skidded to the bottom, seized a carbine, and went back up for the 
fifth time. On reaching the crest he stood up and fired point-blank into the 
machine-gun position, killing the gunner and two covering riflemen. MacDon- 
nell then hurled the machine gun down the slope behind him. A mortar that 
he found in the position was also sent crashing down the hillside. Sergeant 
MacDonnell was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism 
on this occasion. 7 

Lt. Fred Capp, commanding Company E, sent troops to reinforce Mac- 
Donnell immediately, and the position was consolidated. Then Company F, 
on orders given as a result of this sudden development, pressed the attack down 
Skyline Ridge, and by 1800 the entire forward face of the ridge was occupied 
and only a knob at the lower tip was causing trouble. As evening fell a lone 
105-mm. shell from friendly artillery landed short on Company E along the 
ridge, killing 4 and wounding 9 men, 3 of whom died later. 

The next day, 22 April, the 32d Infantry held the forward face of Skyline 
Ridge but made no effort to advance. Patrols, however, worked over large 
sections of the southern slope and one patrol reached the eastern face of Hill 

7 See the account in Gunto Graphic, 24 Jun 45, which differs from Gugeler's account. The Gunto 
Graphic was a news bulletin issued by XXIV Corps and its account of MacDonnell's exploit was based on 
interviews with MacDonnell and several witnesses. See also Tenth Army GO No. 141,1 Aug 45. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



227 



178, finding few Japanese. Three sets of trench lines were found on the southern 
slope of Skyline Ridge, one of them at the very top. There was a maze of 
caves, and, though many were blasted shut, others could be examined. On the 
lower tip of Skyline Ridge one cave contained approximately 200 Japanese 
dead, another about 100, a third 50, and a fourth 45. Bodies had been neatly 
stacked. Altogether, about 500 dead Japanese were counted on Skyline Ridge. 
Most of the bodies showed artillery and mortar wounds; many others had neat 
rifle holes or had been burned by flame. Approximately 200 rifles, 4 heavy 
machine guns, and a number of knee mortars were found piled in a cave, 
apparently salvaged from the battlefield. These circumstances seemed to indicate 
that the Japanese had intended to bury their dead and use the weapons at a 
later time. Japanese weapons destroyed or captured on Skyline Ridge totaled 
250 rifles, 4 heavy machine guns, 19 light machine guns, 20 knee mortars, a 
20-mm. gun, and a 75-mm. field piece. 

On the night of 22-23 April Skyline Ridge was well covered by enemy 
artillery. On 23 April the 32d Infantry remained on the north slope of the ridge 
except when patrolling or closing caves. An enemy pillbox 400 yards away, 
which had survived three direct hits by a 37-mm. gun, restricted movement on 
the south slope until it was destroyed the following day. 

The nth Independent Infantry Battalion had defended Skyline Ridge 
effectively and well; for this, together with subsequent action in the vicinity 
of Maeda on the other side of the island, it was to receive a unit commendation 
from the commanding general of the 62d Division. The battalion had only 
about three hundred men by the night of 22-23 April and was relieved by 
elements of the 2id Regiment. This was the first appearance of 24th Division 
troops in front-line combat positions. The remnants of the nth Battalion 
crossed the island and fought on ensuing days in the Maeda area. 

During the night of 23-24 April a heavy fog set in over southern Okinawa. 
Under its protection, while delivering heavy artillery fire against the American 
front lines, the Japanese withdrew from their remaining positions around 
Hill 178. 

The Battle of the Crags 

The 7th Division's attack against the Rocky Crags on 19 April had uncov- 
ered a formidable position. The height of the crags was such that they covered 
from the northwest the approaches to Hill 178. They themselves were protected 
by machine guns emplaced on elevated ground 200 yards east and by long-range 
machine-gun fire and mortars on Hill 178 to the southeast, on the Tanabaru 



228 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Escarpment to the south, and on high ground to the west. The tall, blunt coral 
pinnacle itself was honeycombed with caves and connecting tunnels. 8 

An attack against the crags on 20 April gained no ground. General Arnold 
then came to the conclusion that the position was the key to Hill 178. The 7th 
Division's main effort was now shifted to the right, and, to give strength here, 
Company B, 17th Infantry, was attached to the 184th Infantry and came into 
the line at 1630, 20 April. After a limited advance the company pulled back to 
escape enemy hand grenades and dug in for the night. 

Company B resumed the attack on 21 April, but it was soon stopped by 
machine-gun fire. Tanks and armored flame throwers then worked over the 
western face of the northernmost crag at close range. This enabled infantry to 
gain the west side of the northern crag. Just over the crest, on the other side, 
Japanese could be heard talking. An effort was made to move over to the east 
side, but the first man to show himself was shot through the face, and no 
advance was possible. A tank and infantry attack on the western face of the 
southernmost crag also failed. Company B fell back to its starting point of the 
morning. 

The next day Battery B of the 31st Field Artillery Battalion rolled a 155-mm. 
howitzer to a point within 800 yards of the crags. Here, firing against the eastern 
face, it quickly shot seven rounds. Great chunks of coral were blown loose. The 
Japanese swung a machine gun on the howitzer and raked the point of the hill, 
hitting two of the gun crew and pinning the remainder and General Arnold, 
who happened to be present at this time, to the ground. 

Tanks and infantry started forward and crossed the open ground on the 
western side of the crags. The flame tanks moved up to the base of the southern 
crag and sprayed its face with great jets of liquid flame. Eight Japanese hurled 
themselves at the armored flame throwers with satchel charges but were cut 
down before they could reach the tanks. 9 Immediately after the billows of black 
smoke had cleared, the infantrymen, who had followed the tanks closely, moved 
up to the base of the hill. But the Japanese again emerged from within the crag 
to man machine guns and to drop grenades and knee mortar shells from the 
coral crest. All but twelve men of the platoon were wounded in a few minutes. 
Another platoon, working along a ledge near the crest, was driven back in a 
close-quarters grenade fight. Artillery hit one of the tanks and set it on fire. At 

8 The account of operations of the 7th Division at Rocky Crags is, unless otherwise noted, taken from 
Gugeler, 7th Div History. See also Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 182. 
8 See also 713th Tk Bn Actn Rpt, 21 Apr 45. 



ROCKY CRAGS west slope was attached by flame thrower tan\s shortly before capture 
of the point shown above. The heart of the Japanese defenses in Roc\y Crags appears 
below. It had been chipped and scarred by artillery fire and demolitions directed against 
enemy lodged deep inside the hill. 



230 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



noon Capt. Charles Murphy halted the attack, planning to resume it at 1600 
after reorganizing the company and evacuating the wounded. 

In the meantime the 155-mm. howitzer, which had been immobilized by 
machine-gun fire early in the day, was moved to another position under protec- 
tion of smoke. It now went back into action, firing forty-three rounds, each a 
target hit. The shape of the coral peak was altered, and the newly pulverized 
rock glistened white. 

At 1600 two platoons attacked again along the west side. Three medium 
tanks and three armored flame throwers led the way, shelling and burning the 
crag. The infantry then moved in so close to the Japanese soldiers that one could 
hear the enemy rifle bolts click. Enemy artillery became active and once again 
hand grenades and knee mortar shells were dropped on the attackers from above. 
In this attack 18 out of 31 men were casualties, and only 5 were left fit for duty. 
At the end of the day, 22 April, Company B of the 17th Infantry had been 
reduced to 40 percent strength as a result of two days' fighting at the crags. At 
the same time elements of the 184th Infantry east of the crags had been held to 
virtually no gain by the network of fire from the crags and supporting positions. 

With Company B exhausted, the remainder of the 1st Battalion of the 17th 
Infantry took up the attack on 23 April after the crag had been pounded once 
more by all available weapons and burned by the flame tanks. There was almost 
no opposition. At 1030 the Rocky Crags were in American hands. The price had 
been 186 casualties in four days to the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, and 57 cas- 
ualties in two days to Company B, 17th Infantry — a total of 243 men. 
The Fight for Nishibaru Ridge 

To the west of the 7th Division, in the center of the line, the 96th Division 
was having a difficult time. 10 [(See Map No. XXVQ Early on 20 April the 1st Bat- 
talion, 382d Infantry, fought off an attempt by the Japanese to wrest from them 
the toe hold gained the day before on Tombstone Ridge. The 3d Battalion 
relieved the 1st at 0730 and attacked south from the northern part of Tombstone 
Ridge. Company L ran into trouble at a small, tree-covered, conical hill just 
east of the southern end of Tombstone Ridge. A bitter fight lasting all afternoon 
took place there. The Japanese held firm and finally even counterattacked with 
bayonets through their own knee-mortar fire. Company L withdrew at 1700 
after suffering thirty-two casualties. On succeeding days this particular Japanese 

10 The account of operations of the 96th Division at Nishibaru Ridge is, unless otherwise noted, taken 
from Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. Ill; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII; 382d Inf Actn Rpt, Ch. 
VII; 383d Inf Actn Rpt. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



231 



strong point was to hamper operations against Nishibaru Ridge. Meanwhile 
Company I fought down the length of Tombstone Ridge, wiping out the enemy 
in caves and tombs, and reached the southern end in time to help Company L by 
supporting fire. But because of the strong point in front of Company L the bat- 
talion was unable to cross the draw between Tombstone and Nishibaru Ridges. 

The 3d Battalion, 382(i Infantry, having drawn abreast at the southern 
end of Tombstone Ridge, and the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, in position to 
the right (west), attacked Nishibaru Ridge at 1100. The attack, launched 
without artillery support, surprised the Japanese, and Companies A and B were 
on the crest of Nishibaru Ridge at 1125. The inability of the 3d Battalion of 
the 382d to cross the draw from Tombstone Ridge left the 1st Battalion of the 
381st exposed on the left. Company C of the 1st Battalion, ordered up to protect 
this exposed flank, was met by heavy enemy fire and suffered many casualties 
in the three and a half hours it took to cross the draw, but at 1600 it was abreast 
of Company A on Nishibaru Ridge. During the afternoon the commander of 
Company A was killed ; only four officers were left in the three rifle companies 
now on the northern slope of the ridge. 

The success of the 1st Battalion of the 381st in reaching Nishibaru Ridge 
led Colonel Halloran, the regimental commander, to order the 2d Battalion 
of the 381st to attack at 1300 and come abreast on the right. Japanese guns on 
the tip of Kakazu covered much of the ground over which the attack had to be 
made, and the platoon nearest Kakazu lost half its strength in crossing the 250 
yards to Nishibaru Ridge. The 3d Battalion, 381st, still farther over on the 
division right, was unable to move at all because of the bypassed Kakazu position. 
Spigot mortar fire was heavy all day in the Nishibaru Ridge area, for it was 
here that the Japanese had one of their main concentrations of these huge 
mortars. 11 In the afternoon one of the big "flying boxcars" lazily wobbled down 
into the midst of Company E, 381st Infantry, on the northern slope of the ridge, 
killing four and wounding six men. 

Severe punishment was meted out to the 2d Battalion of the 381st, exposed 
on its right flank to automatic weapons fire from Kakazu Ridge and to a heavy 
mortar barrage, but Companies E and G held firm. By nightfall the 96th 
had five rifle companies dug in along the northern slope of Nishibaru Ridge. 

The tremendous explosions of the spigot mortars, the showers of knee mor- 
tars, and the drumming of enemy automatic fire caused many cases of combat 

11 See Tenth Army PW Intcrrog Summary No. 11,4 Aug 45: 1st Artillery Mortar Regiment. 



232 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



fatigue during the day. In the fighting of 20 April both the 96th and the 27th 
Divisions suffered more casualties than did the Japanese. This was the only time 
during the campaign that American casualties in two army divisions exceeded 
those of the enemy facing them. 12 

In the fighting for Nishibaru Ridge maneuver was difficult. On the division 
left flank, enemy positions in the Rocky Crags dominated the 2d Battalion, 382d, 
and limited activity to patrols. On the division right flank, Japanese fire power 
located on the tip of Kakazu Ridge in the 27th Division zone immobilized the 
3d Battalion, 381st Infantry. This meant that the division's effort had to be made 
in the center. The foothold gained on 20 April on the western part of Nishibaru 
Ridge indicated that the logical move would be to attack to the left (east) along 
the ridge from the positions already gained. 

The 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, replaced the 3d Battalion, 382d, at the 
southern end of Tombstone Ridge, and at 0720, 21 April, the latter began a 
circling march to the rear and westward to reach Nishibaru Ridge through the 
381st Infantry. Once on the ridge to the left of Company C, the battalion reor- 
ganized and attacked eastward. It gained ground steadily until 1245, when the 
first of three Japanese counterattacks struck. The first counterattack, of platoon 
strength, was beaten off. A second counterattack, of company strength, was 
launched at 1330 from the village of Nishibaru and developed into a bitter close 
battle. Lt. Col. Franklin W. Hartline, battalion commander, went from company 
to company encouraging the men. The heavy machine guns of Company M 
were carried up the steep northern slope and aided greatly in beating back the 
attack. The tripod of the first gun had just been set up when the gunner was 
killed. S/Sgt. David N. Dovel seized the weapon and fired it from the hip, 
dodging from one point to another to escape knee-mortar fire. A short distance 
away another gun was set up, but it was hit almost immediately and put out 
of action. The gunner, Sgt. John C. Arends, and 1st Lt. John M. Stevens then 
took BAR's and dashed over the crest, firing point-blank into the attacking 
enemy. The weapons platoon leader of Company I was killed while directing 
fire from his mortars, which were only thirty-five yards below the crest of the 
ridge. At another point American 60-mm. mortars used an elevation of 86 degrees 
to fire on Japanese knee mortars only 30 yards away. In repulsing this counter- 
attack the 3d Battalion, 38id Infantry, killed approximately 150 Japanese. 13 A 

12 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 187. 

18 See also 3d Bn, 382c! Inf, Unit Jnl, 21 Apr 45. 




NISHIBARU ESCARPMENT AREA, which the g6th Division too\. On 21 April the 
~$d Battalion, 382CI (below), attacked eastern end of escarpment by moving through the 
gist's zone to the ridge, then turning east. Men of the 3d Battalion are shown moving 
forward in support of this attac\. 




234 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



third counterattack at 1515 from Hill 143, 400 yards south of Nishibaru, was 
easily stopped. During the day the 3d Battalion, 382d, accounted for 198 of the 
enemy. The 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, had tried to come up on the left of the 
3d Battalion, 382d, while the latter was under counterattack to give help, but 
hidden machine guns and mortar fire had stopped it at the gorge. 

On the right portion of the division's center, the 1st and 2d Battalions, 381st 
Infantry, undertook a coordinated attack at 0630, 21 April, to capture Nishibaru 
village. The 1st Battalion was on the left and the 2d Battalion was on the right. 
Because the slope of the ridge was too steep to negotiate, tanks could not be used. 
The 1st Battalion and Company E on its right had just cleared the crest of Nishi- 
baru Ridge when they were stopped in their tracks by intense enemy fire. Com- 
pany G, on the right of the two battalions, moved down to the southwest corner 
of the village of Nishibaru. Here it received a hurricane of mortar fire and dis- 
covered enemy troops infiltrating on its right front and massing on its left in the 
village. In the fight that followed, the heavy machine guns attached to Company 
G were fired like BAR's, braced without tripods against a low stone wall. Cross 
machine-gun fire from the tip of Kakazu on the west and from the southern 
slope of Nishibaru Ridge to the east laced across Company G's position. At 1400 
a smoke screen was laid, and the battalion withdrew to a line just over the crest 
of the ridge, carrying its dead on hastily improvised sapling-and-poncho litters. 
At the end of the day the reverse (southern) slope of Nishibaru Ridge and the 
village of Nishibaru were still in enemy hands. 

By the evening of 21 April the heavy casualties inflicted on the 382d In- 
fantry had reduced its combat efficiency about 50 percent, and it was relieved by 
the 383d Regiment on 22 April. The 2d Battalion, 382d, having suffered little 
in the preceding days, was now attached to the 383d Regiment for operational 
control. 

The 383d Infantry picked up the attack against Nishibaru Ridge, directing 
its assault against the "Gate," a saddle in the ridge. To the left (east) of the 
Gate the ridge line rose again to the bold Tanabaru Escarpment. The 2d Battalion 
of the 383d, on the right, attacked at 1100 down the Ridge toward the Gate. 
Nishibaru, a hornet's nest the day before, was occupied by Company E without 
difficulty, and Company G occupied high ground facing Hill 143 to the south. 
Company F, advancing against the front of the ridge, encountered heavy fire and 
lost four company commanders, killed or wounded, in half an hour. Satchel 
charges, hand grenades, and knee mortar shells hurled into the company by the 
Japanese forced it back beyond throwing range of the coral pinnacles. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



2 35 



The 3d Battalion, attacking the Gate on the left, made no appreciable 
gain. Of one group of ten men, including the Company L commander, on the 
side of a small hill, all were wounded except the officer. Company I, farther 
to the left, ran into fire from ten enemy machine guns emplaced near the 
Tanabaru Escarpment. The foremost platoon leader was killed just as he 
ordered his men to withdraw from this overwhelming volume of fire. Light 
tanks came up to the gorge in front of the ridge, and since they were unable 
to cross they remained there and poured thousands of rounds of machine-gun 
fire at the slope in a vain effort to silence the enemy guns. 

On 23 April an armored bulldozer came up and prepared a crossing over 
the gulch. Medium tanks of Company B, 763d Tank Battalion, then crossed 
over and took the ridge and the Tanabaru Escarpment under direct attack. 
Armored flame throwers joined in the assault and burned the north face of 
the escarpment and the slope of the ridge as far west as the Gate. The infantry 
made only limited gains despite the effective work of the armor. The Japanese 
held out on the high points and repulsed the attacks by grenades and satchel 
charges. Elsewhere in the division zone the fighting tapered off sharply. 

It was clear on the evening of 23 April that the Nishibaru-Tanabaru line 
was nearly broken. Four battalions were on the ridge line, and all the high 
ground had been occupied except the Tanabaru Escarpment and the extreme 
western part of Nishibaru Ridge opposite the tip of Kakazu. These were taken 
the next day with ease because the bulk of the Japanese forces had withdrawn 
to the south. 

The Battle of the Pinnacles 

The long, high Urasoe-Mura Escarpment was a natural defensive position 
that became progressively more difficult to breach eastward from the coast. 
Toward the middle of the island it was higher and its northern face was almost 
sheer cliff. This part of the escarpment fell within the left end of the 27th Division 
zone and continued on into that of the 96th Division. The village of Iso, which 
lay just beyond the crest of the escarpment, was a key Japanese defensive position 
occupied by the 21st Independent Infantry Battalion and by elements of the 1st 
Heavy Mortar Regiment, armed with spigot mortars. On 20 April the Japanese 
64th Brigade took over the line from the crippled 63d Brigade as far east as 
Nishibaru. Its troops, deployed from the west coast eastward, consisted of the 
23d, the 21 st, the 15th, and the 273d Independent Infantry Battalions. The 4th 
Independent Machine Gun Battalion, cooperating with the 22^ Antitan\ Bat- 



236 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



talion, supported the 6id Division in the Kakazu-Ginowan area. In the fighting 
from 19 to 22 April the 4th Independent Machine Gun Battalion was to be more 
successful than at any other time on Okinawa. 14 

*The heart of the defensive network around Iso was a high, rocky pinnacle, 
designated "West Pinnacle," which rose from forty to fifty feet above the ridge 
itself, just northeast of the village of Iso. Studded with caves, crevasses, and scores 
of little nooks and crannies, this pinnacle was difficult to approach from any 
direction and was impervious to artillery and mortar fire. Tunnels branched out 
from it in all directions; some emerged in Iso, others as far away as 200 yards 
to the west. The other strong point was a towering height on the escarpment, 
the "East Pinnacle," located from 450 to 600 yards southeast of the West Pinnacle. 
The crest of the escarpment here was hollowed out with burial vaults, most of 
which had courtyards in which the Japanese had carefully placed machine guns 
interdicting all approaches. Midway between the two pinnacles a road climbed 
to the top of the escarpment and cut through the crest in a sharp turn. A strong 
road block filled the cut, and the road itself was mined. 15 

On the night of 19 April the 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry, was on the top 
of the escarpment, spread around one end of the West Pinnacle. The 2d Bat- 
talion, 105th, was not on top of the escarpment but joined the 3d at the road cut 
through the ridge and then bent its line eastward down the slope. On the morn- 
ing of 20 April heavy fighting developed quickly around the two pinnacles. 
Colonel Winn, 105th regimental commander, ordered his 2d and 3d Battalions 
to continue the attack south after the 2d Battalion came up on the escarpment 
abreast of the 3d Battalion. Enemy guns from the pinnacles, however, inter- 
dicted the crest of the escarpment in this area and the 2d Battalion was unable to 
reach the top. Colonel Winn came up to look over the situation, and at 1200 he 
ordered the two battalions to attack at 1230, regardless of fire conditions. Col- 
onel Winn himself organized the 2d Battalion and launched an attack by a new 
route. Company E was left to attack as before, but Companies F and G were sent 
along the base of the escarpment to a point beyond the East Pinnacle, where they 
turned west and scaled the cliffs to reach the top north of the village of Nakama. 
Both companies immediately started south down the reverse slope toward a 
road at the bottom. In this rapid move ment they approached the Japanese in the 
area from the rear and surprised them. (See Map No. XXVII .) 

34 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division; No. 5, 27 Jul 45: The Inde- 
pendent Machine Gun Battalions; No. 11, 4 Aug 45: Artillery Mortar Regiment. 

15 The account of operations of the 27th Division at the Pinnacles is, unless otherwise noted, taken 
from Love, 27th Div History, Pt. VIII. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



237 



At the road both companies halted, F on the left and G on the right, to 
organize for an attack on Nakama to the south. While the two company 
commanders were discussing by radio the tactics to be used in the attack, 
Company F received the first blow — an intense mortar barrage that fell on 
its left flank, nearest Nakama. Japanese could be seen swarming through the 
town. After half an hour Capt. Edward C. Kidd, commanding Company F, 
radioed Capt. Louis F. Cudlin, who commanded Company G, that the enemy 
was working around Company F's left flank and into the rear. The two 
company commanders decided to pivot their lines to face eastward to meet the 
threat. From his position Cudlin could see only part of one platoon of Company 
F. He decided to make the shift when these men changed position. 

Just after the two company commanders finished their radio conversation, 
Captain Kidd was wounded and his radio destroyed. Machine-gun and mortar 
fire was now coming from directly behind Company F. Within only a few 
minutes all the remaining officers and most of the noncommissioned officers 
were killed or wounded. Without leaders and smothered with fire, Company 
F lost all organization and most of the men ran for the edge of the escarpment. 
But the little group out front on the right in view of Company G was oblivious 
to what was happening behind them; it held fast and fought on, and the 
Japanese soon turned their attention to them. Shortly the group discovered 
that they were all alone, and one of them came running over to Captain 
Cudlin, shouting, "Where the hell is F Company?" This was the first inkling 
Cudlin had that anything was seriously wrong. 

Captain Cudlin immediately ordered his platoon leaders to execute the 
swinging movement to face east, but it was too late; Japanese were already 
closing in on his right rear from the East Pinnacle, and the force which had 
just finished off Company F was closing in from the other side. The two 
assault platoons of Company G were deployed along the forward (south) edge 
of the road, which was cut into the reverse slope of the escarpment. The north 
side of the road was a 6-foot embankment, and in trying to escape the men had 
to dash across the road, scramble up the embankment, and then climb a 100-yard 
slope that ran at a 35- to 50-degree angle to the top of the escarpment. Enemy 
machine guns set up on either side swept this ground with enfilading fire as 
soon as the first man started back. Mortars and grenades filled the area with 
flying metal fragments, and enemy riflemen fired as fast as they could reload. 
In the dash up the slope some of the men were killed and others wounded ; still 
others dropped down to hide behind rocks and bushes. 



2 3 8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The 3d Platoon and the machine guns had been left on the edge of the 
escarpment when the two assault platoons of Company G moved to their 
advanced positions. Disorganized elements of Companies F and G now fell 
back through these men. It was discovered at this time that Japanese had 
infiltrated to the low ground below the escarpment on the north, and this 
added to the prevailing consternation. The Japanese, now in a good position 
on the flanks along the escarpment, set up a merciless fire on the men stam- 
peding down the cliff. Men were hit and fell to the bottom to lie still; others 
stumbled and went sprawling headlong to the ground below. Still others, 
running with all their might, reached the lines of the 1st Battalion, which had 
come up and had faced east to meet the Japanese. Companies F and G had 
been completely surrounded and badly mauled by enemy from the bypassed 
East Pinnacle and by Japanese, estimated at two companies, who had turned 
Company F's left flank. 

The 3d Battalion, 105th, with the 1st Battalion, 106th, abreast, had mean- 
while, after some initial delay, advanced without too much opposition some 200 
yards southwest of Iso and had taken up positions there for the night. 

During this disastrous day the 2d Battalion lost fifty men killed and forty- 
three wounded, nearly all of them in Companies F and G. Total casualties of the 
27th Division on 20 April amounted to 506 men — the greatest loss for an Army 
division during any single day on Okinawa. 16 

On the next day, 21 April, the struggle for control of the escarpment con- 
tinued, still centering on the fight for the two pinnacles. The 1st and 2d Bat- 
talions, 105th Infantry, were reorganized overnight and operated against the 
East Pinnacle. Both the 3d Battalion, 105th, and the 1st Battalion, 106th, turned 
back to deal with the West Pinnacle. Neither of these efforts met with success. 
At one time four different groups were working on the West Pinnacle, while a 
Japanese sniper sat somewhere in the folds of coral, picking off men one by one. 

The day, however, saw one definite improvement. On the day before a 
Japanese officer had been killed and a map was found on his body showing the 
location of mine fields on the road from Machinato to the top of the escarpment. 
By 0900, 21 April, the road was cleared of mines and a supply line opened as far 
as the road block on top of the escarpment, and by noon the road block itself 
had been removed. At 1400 tanks went through the cut, and armor was at last 
on the escarpment. In the meantime the problem of supplies on the crest of the 



See 27th Div Actn Rpt, p. 39. 




THE PINNACLES, center of the 2jth Division's fighting on Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. 



240 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 




MAP NO. 5 



escarpment had become critical, and air drops for the 2d Battalion of the 106th 
Infantry were necessary on 21 and 22 April. 17 

On 22 April the 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry, supported by self-propelled 
guns of the 106th Cannon Company, which moved over a path prepared by 
an armored bulldozer, systematically searched out and destroyed enemy positions 
in its rear along the escarpment. Japanese soldiers were still hidden somewhere 
in the West Pinnacle, which the enemy used as an observation point and as 
a control center for spigot mortar fire. But the enemy machine guns behind 
the lines at this point had been destroyed, and supply lines to Iso were for the 
first time free from serious harassing fire. The 1st Battalion, 106th, now had 
pulled back 600 yards to straighten and shorten the lines along the escarpment 



17 See 1 06th Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 13-14. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



241 



and to establish contact with the 105th Infantry on the east. In the 105th 
Infantry zone, Colonel Winn continued to reorganize the 1st and 2d Battalions. 

On 23 April two assault companies of the 1st Battalion, 105th, which had 
relieved the 2d Battalion, climbed on top of the escarpment to the east of the 
East Pinnacle in much the same manner as had the 2d Battalion on 20 April, 
and similarly caught the enemy by surprise. Company C reached the crest of 
the escarpment at the edge of the East Pinnacle stronghold and found itself 
in the midst of the enemy. A wild hand-to-hand fight ensued in which bayonets, 
clubs, and grenades were used, and more than a hundred Japanese were killed 
within an hour. S/Sgt. Nathan S. Johnson led the battle and was himself credited 
with killing more than thirty of the enemy. On one occasion he jumped over 
a small mound of earth and found himself among a dozen Japanese. He 
killed eight with his rifle and clubbed the other four to death. 18 At the end 
of the day the 27th Division held the escarpment as far east as the edge of 
Nakama, the division boundary. 

The end of the West Pinnacle fight came abruptly, on the night of 23 
April. Precisely on the hour of midnight the enemy bugler within the pinnacle, 
who had in previous days and nights frequently sounded his bugle as a signal, 
blew a call, and thirty Japanese soldiers emerged in a wild yelling banzai 
charge, rushing straight into the lines of the 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry, dug 
in south of Iso. There they were wiped out. 
The Ka\azu Pocket 

On 20 April, while the 2d and 3d Battalions, 105th Infantry, were involved 
in the disastrous battle on the escarpment, it was left to the 1st Battalion to mop 
up the Kakazu Pocket. All three rifle companies of the battalion were involved 
by noon in a grim fight for the village. The 96th Division had complained about 
the bypassed Japanese stronghold on its right flank, and General Hodge, XXIV 
Corps commander, had ordered General Griner to have Kakazu Ridge cleared 
by nightfall. 19 By 1635 the 1st Battalion had fought its way to the western edge 
of Kakazu village and had swept Kakazu Ridge almost to its eastern tip. 

Just when it seemed that the 1st Battalion, 105th, might be able to clear the 
Kakazu Pocket, it was ordered to the escarpment to support the 2d Battalion and 
prevent a break-through. Company A was left behind to clean up the village of 
Kakazu. A 16-man patrol went into the village and passed through its rubble- 



Sgt Johnson received the DSC for his gallantry. Tenth Army GO No. 255, 14 Oct 45. 
27th Div G-3 Jnl, entry 61, 20 Apr 45. 



242 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



strewn streets without receiving a shot. At 1700 it reported to Colonel Winn that 
there were no enemy troops in Kakazu. He was not satisfied for he could hear 
small-arms fire from the direction of the village, and he instructed Capt. Louis 
F. Ackerman, commander of Company A, to make another check of the village. 
The patrol was not fired on as it retraced its steps toward the village, but Cap- 
tain Ackerman had barely stepped into the street when he went down with a shot 
in the back. Four men in succession were killed trying to rescue him, and then 
the entire patrol was scattered. Only one man returned that day, although three 
other survivors were rescued on 24 April. Kakazu was still a death trap. 

During the night of 20-21 April, Japanese in large numbers came from the 
escarpment, moved around the left flank of the 27th Division, set up mortars 
and machine guns in the Kakazu area, and occupied the pocket in strength. 20 
Against this increased opposition the division Reconnaissance Troop slowly 
fought its way toward the village of Kakazu and reached its edge at 1145, 21 
April. There the entire troop was pinned down, and a platoon of tanks was called 
up. In three more hours of creeping and of fighting into the rubble of Kakazu 
only fifty yards were gained. The troop then pulled back, and at 1600 division 
artillery placed mass fire on the village. Later it tried to enter, but the Japanese 
emerged from underground and stopped it with a wall of fire j (See Map No. 5.)| 

The events of 21 April in the Kakazu Pocket placed the 27th Division in a 
bad situation. The enemy was in force behind its lines; the division had no 
reserve; and there was a broad gap between it and the 96th Division. Available 
combat strength was stretched thin. While retiring from the front lines as divi- 
sion reserve, the 3d Battalion, 106th Infantry, was ordered into position on 
Kakazu West, "that damned hill," as the men called it. 21 There they had dug in 
by nightfall. 

On the evening of 21 April General Hodge ordered Brig. Gen. William B. 
Bradford, Assistant Division Commander, 27th Division, to take command of 
operations in Kakazu Pocket with full authority to coordinate action with the 
96th Division. At the same time General Hodge directed that the right-flank 
elements of the 96th Division should not "be moved out of their own zone except 
by agreement with CG 96th Div. or specific orders from this Headquarters." 
XXIV Corps considered the enemy positions holding up the right flank of the 
96th Division to be within the 27th Division zone of action. 

20 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 22, 22 Apr 45. 

21 1 06th Inf Actn Rpt, p. 13. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



2 43 



During the night of 21-22 April the Japanese placed heavy artillery fire on 
the lines of the 105th Infantry, and before daylight they started an attack around 
the regimental left flank. Naval star shells illuminated the front, and naval fire 
was called in to break up the attack. 22 

On the afternoon of 22 April General Griner requested a battalion from 
XXIV Corps reserve to help deal with the enemy in Kakazu Pocket, estimating 
the Japanese force there to be at least a battalion. General Hodge ordered the 
3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, to proceed at once from the 7th Division zone on the 
east to the Kakazu area. In the steadily worsening situation, General Griner in 
the afternoon of 22 April directed the i02d Engineer Battalion to assemble near 
Machinato Inlet as division reserve and to be prepared to fight as riflemen. By 
night, there was not only a 1,200-yard gap between the 96th Division and the 
3d Battalion, 106th Infantry, at Kakazu, but also a gap between the 3d Battalion, 
106th, and the 1st Battalion, 105th, at the bottom of the escarpment. If the enemy 
broke through in either place he could cut through to the coast and the service 
installations in the rear. At 2000 General Griner ordered the 2d Battalion, 165th 
Infantry, less Company F, to leave its position near Machinato and move to the 
left flank. With the aid of these troops the gap between the 105th Infantry and 
the 3d Battalion of the 106th was closed by 21 10. The larger gap between divi- 
sions, however, remained open. At 2130, 22 April, the 27th Division had every 
rifle company committed to a defensive line that stretched southeast of Kakazu 
village to the west coast beyond Gusukuma. 

On the night of 22 April General Hodge decided to form a special force 
to eliminate Kakazu Pocket once and for all. A formidable force of four 
battalions of infantry was assembled from the 27th, 7th, and 96th Divisions, 
supporting units of tanks, armored flame throwers, self-propelled assault guns, 
and 4.2-inch chemical mortars, and was given the mission of taking the ridge and 
town of Kakazu. These units were placed under the command of General 
Bradford, Assistant Division Commander, 27th Division, and were known as 
the Bradford Task Force. On 23 April plans were completed and the troops 
moved into place for an attack to take place the next day. 

The 24th of April dawned dark and rainy after a night marked by 
unusually heavy enemy artillery fire. After a 13-minute artillery preparation 
the Bradford Task Force attacked at 0730, determined to fight its way through 
the Kakazu Pocket. No enemy resisted it; the Japanese had vacated their 

22 105th Inf Actn Rept, p. 20. 




URASOE-MURA ESCARPMENT 




KAKAZU VILLAGE, center of Ka\azu Poc\et, looking south to Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. 




KAKAZU POCKET area (photographed 10 July 194$), looking south. 



FALL OF THE FIRST SHURI DEFENSE RING 



positions in the Pocket during the night. Within two hours all battalions 
reached their objectives. In the afternoon, adjacent battalions of the 96th and 
27th Divisions dug in along the division boundary at the foot of the Urasoe- 
Mura Escarpment and had solid contact with each other for the first time 
since 19 April. On 24 and 25 April, when it was at last possible to examine 
the Kakazu area, approximately six hundred Japanese bodies were counted, 
and there was evidence of mass burials and of many dead in sealed caves. 

Never again on Okinawa did the Japanese have such an opportunity of 
inflicting major damage on the American Army as in the period from the 
evening of 19 April through 22 April in the Kakazu area. That they could not 
take advantage of it was due to the fact that almost all their infantry reserves 
were in the southern part of the island. A landing feint off the Minatoga 
beaches simultaneously with the attack of 19 April had been designed to keep 
them there. 23 

The First Line Falls 

The ease with which the Bradford Task Force gained its objectives the 
morning of 24 April was no isolated phenomenon. On the eastern side of the 
island the 7th Division walked up to the top of Hill 178 with only a few scat- 
tered, random rounds of artillery dropping in the area. There was no small-arms 
or automatic fire. All but a few enemy bodies had been removed or buried; the 
usual litter of war was largely missing and weapons and stores had been removed, 



indicating a planned and orderly withdrawal. (See Map No. XXVIII.) 

In the middle of the front in the 96th Division zone, the only Japanese found 
were stragglers and those behind the lines. The Americans occupied the Tana- 
baru Escarpment, the 1,500-yard-long ridge to the south of it, the village of Tana- 
baru, all of Nishibaru Ridge, and Hill 143. Other units advanced farther, cross- 
ing the draw and the Ginowan-Shuri road (Route 5) to take up positions at the 
foot of the eastern end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. The day was not alto- 
gether without incident; scattered enemy were encountered, and occasional 
sudden bursts of long-range machine-gun fire exacted a toll. 

The pattern of easy and uncontested advance across the line was broken 
only on the west coast, where the 27th Division was unable to advance, and by 
the fierce and confused battle of Item Pocket which was raging behind the 
division's lines. 

23 Tenth Army PW Interrog Rpt No. 27, 24 Jul 45 (Shimada); No. 28, 6 Aug 45 (Yahara); PW 
Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62c! Division. 



2 4 8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



During the night of 23-24 April, when a heavy mist and then a fog settled 
over southern Okinawa, Japanese artillery stepped up its rate of fire to reach 
a new peak of intensity along the entire front; every front-line American regi- 
ment received at least 1,000 rounds during the hours of darkness. 24 As the day 
of 24 April wore on it became apparent that the heavy enemy- artillery barrage, 
together with the fog which formed during the night, had covered a Japanese 
withdrawal from the remaining positions in the first ring of the Shuri defenses. 
The Japanese had fought doggedly for five days after the American attack of 
19 April was launched, limiting gains to yards daily and in some places, such 
as Kakazu, denying any gain. But on the evening of 23 April his positions had 
been penetrated at so many places, and the remaining strong points were so badly 
battered and were so rapidly becoming untenable, that it was unprofitable to 
fight longer in these positions. 

Both the disappointments and the hopes of the Japanese front-line troops 
at this time are reflected in the diary of a Japanese superior private fighting in 
the Nishibaru-Kakazu area. On 23 April, date of the final entry, he wrote : 

Although nearly a month has passed since the enemy landed, a terrific battle is still 
going on day and night. I am really surprised at the amount of ammunition that the enemy 
has. When friendly forces fire one round, at least ten rounds are guaranteed to come back. 
There is not one of our friendly planes. If some come, I think we can win the fight in a short 
while. We want planes ! We want planes ! 25 

34 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 25, 25 Apr 45. 

26 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 147-45, 16 Jun 45; Transl Interrog No. 32. 



CHAPTER X 

Tactics and Tactical Decisions 



While General Buckner knew soon after the initial landings that the Jap- 
anese had concentrated their forces on southern Okinawa and had elected to 
fight the battle there, he did not then know the true extent of these defenses. The 
strength of the Shuri fortifications was first fully revealed in the heavy fighting 
between 8 and 23 April, when the Japanese positions held against furious Amer- 
ican onslaughts. Across the entire front line evidence fast accumulated that the 
Japanese held tightly, from coast to coast, a dug-in, fortified defense line, reaching 
in depth as far as Yonabaru-Shuri-Naha. The failure of the American attack to 
break through the Shuri line led to a review of the tactical situation and of the 
tactics required to overcome Japanese resistance with the least possible cost 
and time. 

Tactics and Weapons on Okinawa 

Elements of Japanese Power 

As the Americans came up against the Shuri line veteran fighters in the 
Pacific noted many familiar tactics and techniques in the Japanese defense. 
Intricate and elaborate underground positions, expert handling of light mortars 
and machine guns, fierce local attacks, willingness of Japanese soldiers to destroy 
themselves when cornered, aggressive defense of reverse slopes, full exploitation 
of cover and concealment, ceaseless efforts to infiltrate the lines — all these were 
reminiscent of previous battles with the Japanese from Guadalcanal to Leyte. 

The enemy had shown all his old ingenuity in preparing his positions under- 
ground. Many of the underground fortifications had numerous entrances con- 
nected by an intricate system of tunnels. In some of the larger hill masses his 
tunneling had given him great maneuverability where the heaviest bombs and 
shells could not reach him. Such underground mobility often enabled him to 
convert an apparent defensive operation into an offensive one by moving his 
troops through tunnels into different caves or pillboxes and sometimes into the 
rear of attacking forces. Most remarkable was the care he had lavished on posi- 
tions housing only one or two weapons. In one place a 47-mm. antitank gun 



250 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



had a clear field of fire to the east from a pillbox embrasure set into the hill and 
constructed of heavy stone slabs and coral blocks faced with mortar; a tunnel 
braced with heavy timbers ran from this embrasure fifteen feet into the hill, 
where it met another tunnel running out to the north slope of the hill. A heavy 
machine-gun emplacement near Oyama consisted of two pillbox-type dugouts 
looking out to the north, strongly constructed and connected with the southwest 
slope of the hill by a long, unbraced tunnel cut through the coral and lime for- 
mation. A cave 400 yards north of Uchitomari, with an opening only 3 by 4 
feet, led into a 70-foot tunnel that adjoined two large rooms and received ventila- 
tion through a vent extending 30 feet to the top of the ridge. Some pillboxes had 
sliding steel doors. Experienced officers described such positions as "both artful 
and fantastic." 1 

The most striking aspect of the enemy's resistance was his strength in 
artillery. Never had Pacific veterans seen Japanese artillery in any such quantity 
or encountered such effective use of it, especially in coordination with infantry 
attacks. Together with hundreds of mortars from 50 mm. to 320 mm. the enemy 
had quantities of light and medium artillery and dual purpose guns. He was 
strongest in 70-mm. and 75-mm. guns, 75-mm. and 150-mm. howitzers, and 
5-inch coast defense guns. The 2d Battalion of the Japanese 1st Medium Artillery 
Regiment, located initially south of Kochi and Onaga, typified his artillery 
organization. It was composed of three batteries, each with four 150-mm. 
howitzers, the best Japanese weapons of that type, which could fire 80-pound 
projectiles at a maximum range of 11,000 yards. Each battery had four prime 
movers — 6-ton, full-tracked vehicles that could be used for hauling ammunition 
as well as for towing the howitzers. 2 

Usually widely dispersed as defense against American bombing and shelling, 
the Japanese artillery was nevertheless closely integrated into the general tactical 
scheme of the Shuri defenses. The keynote of the enemy's defensive tactics 
around Shuri was mutual support through coordination of fire power. The 
enemy command indoctrinated the defenders of each position with the impor- 
tance of protecting adjacent positions as well as their own. "It must be borne in 
mind that one's own fire power plays an important part in the defense of the 
neighboring positions and vice versa," a 44th Brigade order read. "If one's own 

1 Tenth Army Int Monograph, Ryukyus Campaign, Ch. Ill, "Engineer," pp. 16-18; XXIV Corps G-2 
Periodic Rpt No. 9, 10 Apr 45. 

2 Captured and Destroyed Enemy Weapons and Equipment Chart, Incl 2 to XXIV Corps G-2 Summary 
No. 15, 26 Jun 45; Tenth Army Int Monograph, Ryukyus Campaign, Pt. I, Sec. D, Ch. I, "Artillery," pp. 2-3. 




Reverse-slope caves, two let/els 
JAPANESE FORTIFICATIONS 




AIR SUPPORT helped in taking some stubborn and inaccessible enemy positions. This is 
in the Love Hill area above Yonabaru. Ridge from lower left to upper right divided 
opposing troops, with Japanese on the side where bomb burst is seen. 



TACTICS AND TACTICAL DECISIONS 



2 53 



fire power is not fully brought to bear, neighboring positions will be destroyed, 
and their supporting fire power lost against an advancing enemy, thus exposing 
oneself to danger." 3 
Blowtorch and Corkjcrew 

The American forces had brought to bear against the enemy their great 
superiority in armor and self-propelled assault guns, the weight of massed 
artillery, and supremacy in the air over the scene of battle. Added to all this 
was something new to warfare. The continuous presence of the tremendous 
fleet, aligned on the enemy's flanks, provided the ground forces with the constant 
support of its great mobile batteries, capable of hurling a vast weight of metal 
from a variety of weapons ranging from rockets to 16-inch rifles. 

Naval gunfire was employed longer and in greater quantities in the battle 
of Okinawa than in any other in history. It supported the ground troops and 
complemented the artillery from the day of the landing until action moved to 
the extreme southern tip of the island, where the combat area was so restricted 
that there was a danger of shelling American troops. Naval fire support ships 
normally were assigned as follows: one for each front-line regiment, one for 
each division, and one or more for deep-support missions designated by the 
Corps. Whenever possible, additional ships were employed along the east coast 
to neutralize Japanese gun positions on the Chinen Peninsula, which dominated 
the entire coast line of Nakagusuku Bay and the left flank of XXIV Corps. 

Night illumination fires were furnished on about the same basis as gun- 
fire — one ship to a regiment, with additional ships available to Corps for special 
illumination missions. The night illumination provided by the ships was of the 
greatest importance. Time and again naval night illumination caught Japanese 
troops forming, or advancing, for counterattacks and infiltrations, and made it 
possible for the automatic weapons and mortars of the infantry to turn back such 
groups. Often the Japanese front lines were almost as well illuminated at night 
as during the daytime. It was very difficult for the Japanese to stage a night coun- 
terattack of any size without being detected. 

Many different kinds of ships were used in providing naval support. A 
typical day would see the use of 3 battleships, 3 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 
and 4 or 5 destroyers to support the Corps. Later LCI rocket boats were used 
extensively. During the night of 18-19 April, 5 battleships, 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light 
cruiser, and 4 destroyers furnished night fires and illumination. During the 19th, 

8 Tenth Army G-2 Summary No. 2, 4 Jun 45, Notes on Construction of Positions, 44th 1MB, 7 May 45. 




CORKSCREW — demolition team runs from cave blast. 



TACTICS AND TACTICAL DECISIONS 



255 



the day of the big attack, more heavy naval gunfire was made available than 
usual. On call for each division were 4 battleships, 1 heavy cruiser, and 1 destroyer. 
In addition, 1 battleship, 1 heavy cruiser, and 1 destroyer were used for deep 
support behind the lines. 4 

Both carrier-based and land-based air support was given the troops through- 
out the battle when weather conditions permitted the planes to take to the air. 
During the first week all air support was carrier-based, but after Kadena and 
Yontan airfields became operational, Marine fighters gave daily support from 
these fields. The largest single air strike of the Okinawa battle was on 19 April 
in support of the coordinated attack. On this day 139 aircraft were used, most 
of them armed with 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs and rockets. 

Literally, the Japanese were enveloped by fire power, from the ground in 
front, from the air above them, and from the water on their flanks — fire power 
and explosives the like of which had never before been seen in such concentrated 
form in so restricted an area. Surely, all this fire power must have pulverized 
the Japanese positions and rendered the enemy incapable of prolonged resistance. 
But it had not. The enemy was denied freedom of movement, but even 16-inch 
naval shells as they penetrated the surface concrete or coral and exploded sounded 
like ping-pong balls to those who were kept deep underground. 

The American answer to the enemy's strong and integrated defenses was 
the tank-infantry team, including the newly developed armored flame thrower, 
and supported by artillery; each team generally worked in close coordination 
with assaults of adjacent small units. Although rockets, napalm, mortars, smoke, 
aerial bombing, strafing, naval bombardment, and all the others in the array 
of American weapons were also important, the tank-infantry team supported 
by 105's and 155's was the chief instrument in the slow approach on Shuri. 
A captured Japanese commander of a 47-mm. antitank battalion stated that in 
view of the success of this combination he did not see why any defense line, 
however well protected, could not be penetrated. 6 

A pattern of tank-infantry attack had been developed in wresting the 
outer main ring of Shuri defenses from the enemy. There the fighting had dis- 
solved into numerous small-unit actions, with assault groups of tanks and rifle- 
men, demolition squads, BAR men, and machine gunners, each trying by all the 
means their wits could devise, and acting with high courage, to take a given 

4 Actn Rpt XXIV Corps, p. 45; G-3 Periodic Rpt XXIV Corps, 19 Apr 45, 

5 Sgt Bert Bamer, USAFMIDPAC G-2 Hst Sec, Japanese Counter-Tactics against U. S. Infantry-Tank 
Teams Okinawa. (On file in Hist Div, WDSS.) 



256 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



single position in front of them. Guns and howitzers battered Japanese cave 
openings, dugouts, and pillboxes, forcing enemy gunners back into tunnels for 
protection and decreasing their fields of fire. Taking advantage of the resulting 
"dead spaces," infantry and tanks crept up on the most exposed strong point; 
the tanks attacked the position point-blank with cannon, machine guns, and 
flame, while the infantry prevented Japanese "close-quarters attack troops" carry- 
ing explosives from closing in on the tanks. Once the troops gained a foothold 
in the enemy position, they could move down on cave openings from above, in 
maneuvers which the Japanese called "straddle attacks" and greatly feared. 

Each small action, a desperate adventure in close combat, usually ended in 
bitter hand-to-hand fighting to drive the enemy from his positions and there to 
hold the gains made. In these close-quarters grenade, bayonet, and knife fights, 
the Japanese frequently placed indiscriminate mortar fire on the melee. The 
normal infantry technique in assaults on caves and pillboxes involved the coordi- 
nated action of infantry-demolition teams, supported by direct-fire weapons, 
including tanks and flame throwers. Cave positions were frequently neutralized 
by sealing the entrances. In some instances Tenth Army divisional engineers 
employed a 1,000-gallon water distributor and from 200 to 300 feet of hose to 
pump gasoline into the caves. Using as much as 700 gallons for a single demoli- 
tion, they set off the explosion with tracer bullets or phosphorus grenades. The 
resulting blast not only burned out a cave but produced a multiple seal. The com- 
plete destruction of the interconnected cave positions sometimes took days. 

The tank-infantry team waged the battle. But in the end it was frequently 
flame and demolition that destroyed the Japanese in their strongholds. General 
Buckner, with an apt sense for metaphor, called this the "blowtorch and cork- 
screw" method. 7 Liquid flame was the blowtorch; explosives, the corkscrew. 

Okinawa saw the use by ground troops of important new American 
weapons : the armored flame thrower, Sound Locator Sets, GR-6, and VT fuzes. 
The first was perfected at Oahu, after experimentation by the Marines with 
cruder types, in time for use by the troops on Okinawa. The 713th Tank Bat- 
talion was equipped with, and trained in the use of, the new weapon, which 
was installed in the standard medium tank. The flame-thrower gun was 
mounted in the 75-mm. gun tube and was operated under high pressure. Fuel 

" Engineers of the Southwest Pacific, 1944-45, Vol. I: Engineers in Theater Operations. OCofEngr, 
GHQ Army Forces, Pacific. 

7 Journal, Hist Off XXIV Corps, 1 May 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 257. 



TACTICS AND TACTICAL DECISIONS 



2 57 



tank capacity was 300 gallons and effective range was 80 to 100 yards, although 
a maximum range of 125 yards could be obtained. The fuel used was a mixture 
of napalm and ordinary gasoline. Napalm is a granular soapy substance giving 
consistency and weight to the mixture and restricting the area of the flame. The 
greater the quantity of napalm, the heavier the viscosity of the mixture. 

The fifty-five armored flame throwers of the 713th Tank Battalion were 
unloaded at Okinawa on 7 April and were attached to the divisions. Although 
they were committed in the fighting of 8-12 April, they used only their machine 
guns and not their flame throwers. In the attack of 19 April the Japanese experi- 
enced the full effects of this terrifying weapon for the first time. 8 

New sound-locator devices were also used for the first time on Okinawa. 
Sound locator teams were rushed from Fort Benning at the last minute to join 
the invasion. There were initially five teams of eight men, with two Sound 
Locator Sets, GR-6, per team. The locators, set up at each end of a base line 
about 700 yards in length, determine the direction from which the fire of a 
gun is coming, locating the weapon by intersection. One can then either place 
counterbattery over the general area, or else pinpoint the weapon by aerial 
observation and destroy it by direct hit. 8 

The VT or proximity fuze, placed in the nose of an artillery shell, consists 
of a tiny transmitting and receiving radio set which automatically detonates 
a shell at a predetermined distance from its target. The fuze transmits a radio 
beam, which, when it strikes a solid object, is reflected by that object and 
picked up by the receiver of the fuze. The beam then trips a switch within 
the fuze which detonates the shell. The fuze was first used on 5 January 1943 
by the Navy in the Pacific. Employed first by the Army in the air defense of 
London in the summer of 1944, the fuze was used in ground combat during 
the German break-through of December 1944 in the Ardennes. In ground com- 
bat against the Japanese it was first utilized on Okinawa, in 105-mm., 155-mm., 
and 8-inch howitzers. Its most lethal effect was produced by bursts over the 
heads of troops at a predetermined distance above the ground. Trenches and 
foxholes provided little protection against these bursts; the Japanese were safe 
from the fuze only when holed up in caves, concrete pillboxes, tunnels, and 
other types of deep underground fortifications. 10 

8 Actn Rpt 713th Tank Bn, Jul 45; Appleman Diary, 15 Jun 45. 

9 Actn Rpts Sound Location Teams Nos. 1-5; Appleman Diary, 13 Jun 45. 

10 Appleman Diary, 1 1 Jun 45. 



2 5 8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Tactical Decisions 

The proved strength of the Japanese defenses, and the costliness of reducing 
them even with the aid of so powerful an arsenal of weapons as the American 
forces possessed, raised the question of making an amphibious landing south of 
the Shuri line to envelop the enemy's Shuri positions. It had been hoped that the 
7th, 27th, and 96th Divisions, supported by massed artillery, could penetrate the 
Shuri line. 11 But failure of the attack of 19 April dispelled the expectation of an 
early and easy penetration of the enemy defenses. If any doubt remained about 
the kind of fighting that lay ahead before Okinawa could be won, it was dissi- 
pated by the heavy combat and high casualties experienced from 19 to 24 April 
in penetrating the first main ring of the Shuri defense zone. Even this gain was 
small, and it was evident that it would take a long time to reach Shuri at the 
rate of progress of the first three and a half weeks of the operation. 

The question of a second landing in southern Okinawa was considered by 
Tenth Army most seriously before 22 April. General Bruce, commander of the 
77th Division, knew that his division would be committed in the Okinawa fight- 
ing as soon as Ie Shima was secured. At Leyte the amphibious landing of the 
77th Division behind the Japanese line at Ormoc had been spectacularly success- 
ful. General Bruce and his staff wished to repeat the move on Okinawa and urged 
it on the Tenth Army command even before the division sailed from Leyte. 
As the Ie Shima fighting drew to a close, General Bruce pressed his recommenda- 

11 This section is of necessity based primarily on statements by and interviews with various commanders 
and staff officers. No contemporary records were found of the numerous discussions of the subject, which 
were largely informal. As is evident, it has been impossible to fix the time and content of the discussions 
with any great degree of accuracy. The sources used are as follows: statements of Brig Gen Elwyn D. 
Post, CofS, Tenth Army, 10 Jun 46; Brig Gen Laurence E. Schick, DCofS, Tenth Army, 13 Jun 46; Brig 
Gen David H. Blakelock, ACofS, G-4, Tenth Army, 8 Feb 46; Col Virgil Shaw, ACofS, G-3, Tenth 
Army, 6 Feb 46; Brig Gen Oliver P. Smith, Marine DCofS, Tenth Army, 30 Jul 46; Lt Gen John R. Hodge, 
CG XXIV Corps, 1 Feb 46; Lt Col Max Meyers, ACofS, G-2, 77th Div,~ Apr 46; Capt Edmund G. Love, 
27th Div Hist Off, 23 Feb 47; interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, CG Tenth Army, 15 Jun 45; with 
Maj James H. McMullen, G-3 Sec, Tenth Army, 18 Jun 45; with Brig Gen Walter A. Dumas, ACofS, 
G— 3, Tenth Army, 9 Jul 45; with Lt Col James R. Weaver, ACofS, G-2, 13 Jun 45; interv XXIV Corps 
Hist Off with Col John W. Gueiard, ACofS, G-3, XXIV Corps, 1 Jul 45; with Col Cecil W. Nist, ACofS, 
G-2, XXIV Corps, 15 Jun 45; with Brig Gen Josef R. Sheetz, CG XXIV Corps Arty, 23 Jun 45; with 
Col Kenneth C. Strothers, DCofS for Opns, XXIV Corps, 27 Jun 45; with Capt Mervin A. Elliott, G-2 
Sec, XXIV Corps, 27 Jun 45. Interviews conducted by the XXIV Corps Hist Off are recorded in the 
Okinawa Diary, XXIV Corps, kept by Maj Roy Appleman, on file in the Hist Div, WDSS; Appleman, XXIV 
Corps History, Vol. IV, Annex II, has a useful discussion of the entire problem. For Japanese plans and 
dispositions see Interrog Yahara; Tenth Army Transl No. 246, 8 Jul 45: 321! Army Ord No. 170, 22 Apr 
45; Transl No. 244, 7 Jul 45: 32c! Army Ord No. 172, 23 Apr 45; Transl No. 273, 13 Jul 45: 321! Army 
Ord No. 175, 26 Apr 45. ' 



TACTICS AND TACTICAL DECISIONS 



259 



tion to land his division on the southeast coast of Okinawa on the beaches just 
north of Minatoga. He believed that it would be necessary to effect a juncture 
with American forces then north of Shuri within ten days if the venture was 
to be successful. His plan was either to drive inland on Iwa, a road and com- 
munications center at the southern end of the island, or to push north against 
Yonabaru. 

General Buckner rejected the idea. His assistant chief of staff, G-4, stated 
that he could supply food but not ammunition for such a project at that time. 
The Minatoga beaches had been thoroughly considered in the planning for the 
initial landings and had been rejected because of the impossibility of furnishing 
adequate logistical support for even one division. The reefs were dangerous, the 
beaches inadequate, and the area exposed to strong enemy attack. Although 
beach outlets existed, they were commanded both by the escarpment to the west 
and by the plateau of the Chinen Peninsula. The Tenth Army intelligence officer 
reported that the Japanese still had their reserves stationed in the south. Both the 
24th Division and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade were still in the area 
and could move quickly to oppose any landings. Artillery positions on the 
heights overlooking the beaches were fully manned. The 77th Division would 
be landing so far south that it would not have the support of the troops engaged 
to the north or of XXIV Corps artillery. |(See Map No. HI.) 

Moreover, at the time the 77th Division was available, around 21 April, all 
three Army divisions in the line — the 7th, 27th, and 96th — were in a low state of 
combat efficiency because of casualties and fatigue. The Tenth Army commander 
felt that it was of paramount importance to relieve these divisions as far as pos- 
sible in order to maintain the pressure against the Japanese. Furthermore, the 
full strength of the 77th would not have been available: the division had left 
garrison forces on the Kerama Islands and Ie Shima which would not be replaced 
immediately. General Buckner felt that any landing on the southeast coast would 
be extremely costly, "another Anzio, but worse." Unless a juncture between the 
diversionary force and the main body of his troops could be made within forty- 
eight hours of the landing he felt that he could not endorse the plan. A juncture 
within such a period of time being obviously impossible, the general's disap- 
proval was patent. 

Looming even larger than the question of where to commit the 77th 
Division was that of how best to use the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions in con- 
quering southern Okinawa. The 2d Marine Division, which had been sent 
back to Saipan, was scheduled to invade Kikai, north of Okinawa, in July; 



260 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



thus its employment on Okinawa was to be avoided if possible. The 6th would 
not be available for the southern front until relieved of its security mission in 
north Okinawa; this was effected early in May by the 27th Division. The 1st 
Marine Division, however, could be moved south to enter the line at any time, 
except for one consideration. In Phase III of the original plan for ICEBERG, 
the island of Miyako, in the Sakishima Group just north of Formosa, was to be 
invaded after Okinawa had been taken. The V Amphibious Corps, scheduled 
for this operation, had suffered so severely at Iwo Jima that Tenth Army was 
directed on 13 April to keep III Amphibious Corps free from heavy commitment 
that would interfere with its possible use at Miyako. Reconnaissance of Okinawa 
after the American landings had disclosed that the island had far greater 
potentialities for development as an air base than had been thought, and the 
strategical aspects of the entire operation were therefore reconsidered. On 26 
April Admiral Nimitz sent a dispatch notifying Tenth Army that the Miyako 
operation of Phase III had been postponed indefinitely by the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff in Washington, thus freeing the III Amphibious Corps for full use on 
Okinawa. 

Doubtless in anticipation of this decision, Tenth Army had already con- 
sidered the problem of where and how to commit the two Marine divisions 
standing by in northern Okinawa. Landings on the Minatoga beaches were re- 
jected for the same reasons as were adduced in the case of the 77th Division. The 
beaches from Machinato airfield to Naha were not considered suitable because 
their use would create supply problems and because the strong Japanese positions 
west of Shuri overlooked the coastal flat. The vicinity of Itoman farther south on 
the west coast was studied, but the formidable reef there discouraged such a plan. 
The southern tip of the island was sheer cliff along the shore. Landings along 
lower Buckner Bay were considered impracticable because Japanese artillery on 
the Chinen Peninsula and on the hills east of Shuri completely dominated the 
area and could prevent naval gunfire support ships from entering the bay. The 
commanding general of XXIV Corps Artillery believed that landings here would 
end in catastrophe, that artillery could not be put ashore, and that if it could be, 
it would be largely destroyed. In addition the time element was unfavorable: it 
would take an appreciable time to obtain shipping from the 1st Marine Division 
and mount it out, while the 2d Marine Division, which still had its shipping, 
would have to be brought back from Saipan. If Marine troops were to be com- 
mitted in the south, it would be much quicker to move the 1st Marine Division 
down the island by road to the established front. 




SOUTHERN COAST LINE of Okinawa is marked by jumbled masses of roc\ and vege- 
tation, fronted by wide reefs. Cliff in picture is over 50 feet high. 



262 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Later, about 26-28 April, three staff officers of Tenth Army visited XXIV 
Corps headquarters and talked over with Col. John W. Guerard, G-3, XXIV 
Corps, the tactical problems involved in committing III Amphibious Corps to 
the battle in southern Okinawa, Colonel Guerard had noticed that identifica- 
tions of Japanese 24th Division troops had been found during the past few days 
of fighting. These seemed to indicate that the enemy command had moved the 
24th to the Shuri front and that the Japanese rear areas, accordingly, were more 
lightly held than formerly. Colonel Guerard believed therefore that a landing in 
the south, to which he had hitherto been opposed, was now feasible. He urged 
this view on the Tenth Army officers and recommended landing the marines 
on the Minatoga beaches at the southern base of the Chinen Peninsula. When 
informed of this discussion by Colonel Guerard, General Hodge agreed that a 
landing of the marines in the south was tactically desirable. Early the next morn- 
ing General Hodge went to Tenth Army headquarters to urge this view. The 
proposal was rejected on the ground that a major landing in the south could 
not be supported logistically. 

Tenth Army staff officers, advising against additional landings, contended 
that there were no suitable landing beaches on the west coast; that it would be 
very difficult to supply even one division on the southeastern beaches; that two 
diversionary landings, one on each coast, would result in a dispersion of force 
with each division being contained in its beachhead. They considered the entire 
plan too hazardous; the troops would come up against strongly held Japanese 
positions in an area where the terrain favored a strong defense, and the landings 
could not be supported by artillery. General Buckner believed that the need for 
fresh troops was greatest on the Shuri front, where they could relieve the bat- 
tered divisions already on the line. 

Relying on the advice of his staff, General Buckner made his final decision 
against amphibious landings at some time between 17 and 22 April; thereafter 
the matter, although raised again, was not given serious consideration by 
Tenth Army. General Buckner came to the conclusion that the landings were 
not feasible either tactically or logistically. Admiral Nimitz later flew with his 
staff members from Guam to Okinawa to confer with General Buckner and 
other commanders present and concurred in the decision which had been made. 12 

The chief reason for the rejection of a second landing seems to have been 

12 New York Herald Tribune, June 18, 1945. Admiral Turner, in conferences recalled by Col. V. F. 
Shaw, G— 3 Plans, Tenth Army, also expressed opposition to a second landing, because of lack of sufficient 
combat ships to screen another anchorage. Interv Hist Div, SSUSA, with Col. Shaw, 19 Jan 48. 



TACTICS AND TACTICAL DECISIONS 



263 



logistical — the judgment that a landing in the south could not be supplied. This 
judgment was confirmed during the later stages of the campaign when the 7th 
Division, in possession of the Minatoga area, was supplied by landing craft 
over the beach; despite the relatively quiet conditions, the tonnage unloaded 
never reached a satisfactory level because of the inherently unfavorable beach 
conditions, and landing craft had to be supplemented by overland supply 
from Yonabaru. Aggressive forward movement after a landing might have 
eased the initial logistical difficulties but not to a very great extent. A second 
major consideration was the danger that any beachhead might be contained by 
the strong Japanese forces in the area. The truth was, indeed, that the Japanese 
fully expected and almost hoped for another landing in the south, fore- 
shadowed by the L-Day feint, and kept a large body of alerted troops there to 
meet just such a contingency. After having committed most of these troops to 
the Shuri front, they prepared a substitute plan to oppose landings in the south, 
whereby from 2,000 to 3,000 troops in the area were to fight a delaying action 
while the main forces consolidated a strong perimeter defense around Shuri. 

While before the end of April any attempted landings in the south with one 
or two divisions might have failed — and certainly would not have succeeded 
except with heavy losses — later the situation became more favorable. The Jap- 
anese 24th Division was committed piecemeal to the Shuri front between 23 
April and 4 May, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade was brought up on 
26 April, although it did not enter the battle immediately. These changes weak- 
ened Japanese strength south of the Shuri line, and the Japanese counterattack 
of 4-5 May brought about a still greater depletion of the enemy's resources. The 
prospect of success for a southern amphibious landing thus greatly improved 
between 5 and 21 May; a landing then would have been justifiable could it have 
been supplied. By that time, however, the Marines had already been committed 
to the Shuri front. Moreover, after Tenth Army turned the enemy's right flank 
on 21 May 13 there was no longer any need for a second landing. 

The Japanese command, expecting American landings in the south and 
prepared to meet them, could not understand why they were not made. The pre- 
vailing opinion among the Japanese was that the American command wished 
to obtain as cheap a victory as possible by wearing down the Shuri line rather 
than to risk troops in a hazardous landing in the south, though the latter course 
might bring the campaign to a speedier end. 



See below, pp, 



358-59- 



264 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



By their decision General Buckner and his staff committed themselves to 
the alternative basic tactics of the battle for Okinawa — a frontal assault by the 
two corps against the Shuri line and an attempt to make a double envelopment 
of Shuri. The choice was a conservative one: it avoided the risks inherent in 
another landing under the conditions which would have attended it. It was defi- 
nitely decided to bring the III Amphibious Corps from northern Okinawa and 
the 77th Division from Ie Shima. Efforts were also made to speed up the logistical 
preparations necessary for another general attack. Until sufficient troops and 
supplies should be at hand the Tenth Army would continue its attack against 
the second Shuri defense ring with as much force as available resources per- 
mitted. For the time being the tactical aim would be to consolidate and advance 
the American lines for the purpose of gaining a better position for the big attack. 



CHAPTER XI 



Assaulting the Second Shuri 
Defense Ring 

The forward surge of the American lines on 24 April marked the fall of the 
first Shuri defense ring everywhere but on the extreme right, in the Item Pocket 
area. The enemy had withdrawn to the next ring of prepared positions of the 
Shuri defense zone and was ready to repeat the process of making the invader 
pay for every foot of ground. 

On 24 April General Hodge radioed his division commanders that "opera- 
tions today indicate enemy withdrawn his forces from the strong positions he 
has fought so desperately to hold," and ordered aggressive patrolling to de- 
termine the new enemy dispositions. At 1100 of the same day he directed the 
division commanders to regroup their forces and improve their positions by 
aggressive action, seizing all advantageous ground to their front and pushing 
in enemy outposts. They were to prepare for a general attack at 0600, 26 April. 1 

While the attack against the second ring of Shuri defenses was under way, 
there was a major regrouping of the weary American forces at the end of April 
everywhere on the line except on the 7th Division front. The 27th Division on 
the west was relieved by the 1st Marine Division, and the 96th Division in the 
center of the line was relieved by the 77th. These changes were completed by 
30 April. The 7th Division was to remain on the line until relieved by the 96th 
after its 10-day rest. 

By the end of April a shift of troops in the line had become necessary. The 
Japanese position was still strong and there was no indication that it would soon 
be reduced. The 96th Division, which had gone into Okinawa understrength, 
had suffered very heavy casualties. It needed a rest and an opportunity to 
assimilate its replacements; on the other hand, the 77th was relatively fresh, 
although it had fought in the Kerama Retto and on Ie Shima. The 27th Division 
had not been intended for combat duty on Okinawa but had been loaned tem- 
porarily to XXIV Corps when it became evident that the 7th and 96th could not 

1 XXIV Corps CofS Jnl, 24 Apr 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 207. 




ASA RIVER AREA, where marines drove south. (Photo ta\en 10 July 1945.) 



ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



267 



break through the Shuri defenses alone. After the cancellation in the middle of 
April of Phase III for the Okinawa campaign, the conquest of Miyako, the III 
Amphibious Corps became available to General Buckner for use on the southern 
front. The 1st Marine Division in the north was to go south first since it was 
closer to the Shuri line and could be moved into position more quickly than the 
6th Marine Division. 

Despite this redisposition, the use of fresh troops, and some of the most 
intensive efforts that the campaign had yet seen, the Americans fought for an 
entire week without making any significant gain except in the center of the 
front. In large measure their failure was due to the difficulty of appraising 
correctly the nature of the interlocking Japanese defenses that they now faced. 

Stalemate on the West Coast 

On the west coast, in the 27th Division zone, the Item Pocket fighting was 
practically over by 27 April. The 165th Infantry spent the remaining days of 
the month patrolling the Kuwan Inlet south of Machinato airfield. On the 
division left, the 105th Infantry regrouped after the battles of the Pinnacles, 
pushed to the southern edge of Nakama on 26 April, organized a line, and held 
there until relieved on 1 May. In the division center the 2d Battalion, 106th 
Infantry, engaged in hard fighting on 27-28 April around Yafusu in an effort 
to straighten the line. But the division, overextended and all but exhausted, 
made no major offensive effort during the last days of April. 2 

On 30 April the 1st Marines of the 1st Marine Division relieved the 165th 
Infantry on the west coast, and the next day the 5th Marines of the same division 
completed the relief of that part of the line held by the 105th and 106th Infantry. 
Maj. Gen. Pedro A. del Valle, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, 
which had been attached to XXIV Army Corps, assumed responsibility for 
the former 27th Division zone of action at 1400, 1 May. 3 

The enemy also reinforced his line in this area. On 26 April General 
Ushijima ordered the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade to take a position 
west of Shuri and north of Naha at the Asa River, behind the remnants of the 
62d Division. Thus the 62^ Division would be supported if a break-through 
threatened on the west coast. 



2 Love, 27th Div History, Pt. IX. 

3 Capt James R. Stockman, USMC, The First Marine Division on Okinawa, published by Historical 
Division, Hq USMC, 1946 (hereafter cited as Stockman, 1st Mar Div History); 27th Div Actn Rpt, p. 49. 



268 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Asa River Battle 

The initial objective of the ist Marine Division was the north bank of the 
Asa River. Immediately in front of the division, between it and the Asa River, 
was a series of hills and ridges. On this high ground the Japanese had prepared 
defensive positions in depth which were to occupy the Marines well into May. 
On 30 April, and again on 1 May, while the 5th Marines were moving into the 
line, the ist Marines tried to push south, but on each day it was repulsed with 
considerable loss of life; on 1 May one company alone suffered twenty-four 
casualties. 

The 2d of May was wet and chilly, but the marines, two assault regiments 
abreast, pressed the attack. On the left, next to the 77th Division, the 5th 
Marines met stubborn resistance. Again, for the third day, the ist Marines met 
trouble trying to cross the draw south of Nakanishi village to reach the Jichaku 
ridge mass. Marines of Company B, one at a time, attempted to cross over a 
blown bridge. Three of the first five men were hit in the attempt. One man 
negotiated the top of the south bank. The next three men to follow him were 
shot in the head. After this bloody reception the company hugged the southern 
bank of the draw until 1300, when it was ordered to withdraw. In the confusion 
of the withdrawal, a large number of men were left behind. Eighteen men, five 
of them wounded, who had not known of the withdrawal order were brought 
back after dark. 
Advance Along the Coast 

Farther to the west along the coast, Company F moved forward under fire 
along Machinato airstrip and dug in after dark by the light of flares. On the 
regimental left (east), Companies L and K made limited advances but developed 
gaps of as much as 200 yards between platoons. Weapons jammed with mud, 
and the situation quickly became precarious. At 1800 the men began to withdraw 
behind a white phosphorus grenade screen. That night Company K was in an 
unenviable position, with an exposed left flank. Practically all its weapons were 
unusable because of mud in the mechanisms. The perimeter defense had only, 
in addition to grenades, two rifles and one BAR that would work. In repelling 
a counterattack which struck it that night at 0200, Company K used rifles as 
clubs. During the day and night Company K suffered forty-two casualties. By 2 
May the ist Marine Division had lost 54 men killed, 233 wounded, and 11 miss- 
ing — total casualties of 298/ 

4 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 3 May 45; Stockman, ist Mar Div History. 



ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



269 



The fighting on 3 May followed closely the pattern of the previous days. 
The marines continued to advance along the coastal flats. However, it was soon 
realized that if the advance continued the troops would be flanked by automatic 
and mortar fire from the finger ridges to the east. It became clear that enemy 
positions in the high ground eastward from the coast would have to be destroyed 
before any general advance was possible. Accordingly, after 3 May, the direction 
and plan of attack pivoted to the southeast toward this commanding ground. 5 

The yth Division at Kochi Ridge 

On the eastern side of the Corps line, the 7th Division, although not realizing 
this immediately, faced a new enemy combat unit. On 23 April the 22a 1 Regi- 
ment of the 24th Division took over the eastern part of the Shuri defense zone. 
At last the 62d Division, which for three weeks had borne the brunt of the Amer- 
ican attack, was to have help. It was time, for the 62^ was but a remnant of its 
former self. The boundary between the 24th Division and the 62d Division, 
which now was assembled in the western half of the line, ran generally from 
Shuri Castle north to the front lines west of Kochi and Tanabaru. The Ginowan- 
Shuri road (Route 5) marked roughly the boundary between the two major 
units of the Japanese ^2d Army. The change in command along the front was 
effective at 1100, 23 April. The order directing the new deployment of 24th 
Division troops stated that "in particular, liaison forces with the 62d Division 
near Kochi, must be strongly protected." The front lines of the 22^ Regiment 
extended from the east coast northwestward through the villages of Gaja, Ku- 
hazu, Onaga, and Kochi. The rest of the 24th Division was in reserve northeast 
of Shuri or in the Oroku area. The 22^ Regiment, fresh and never before in 
combat except for small groups that had participated in the abortive counter- 
attack of 13 April, faced the 7th Division at Kochi and eastward to the sea. 6 

Directly south of Hill 178, two miles away, stood dominant Conical Hill, 
guarding the coastal passage. Hill 178 and Conical sent long ridges downward 
toward each other which terminated, 800 yards short of meeting, in a low, flat 
area, an inward bulge of the coastal flat which reached at this point as far as 

6 1st Mar Div Special Actn Rpt, Nansei Shoto, 10 Jul 45, Ch. VII: Assault Narrative Phase III, p. 2; 
XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 3 May 45. 

6 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 3, 2 Aug 45: 24th Division; Transl No. 246, 8 Jul 45; 32^ 
Army Ord No. 170, 22 Apr 45; Transl No. 244, 7 Jul 45; $2.d Army Ord No. 172, 23 Apr 45; 7th Div G— 2 
Periodic Rpt Nos. 26—28 and 34, 26—28 Apr and 4 May 45, especially PW Interrog Rpt No. 14 in G— 2 
Periodic Rpt No. 28, and Transl No. 23 in G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 27. 



CONICAL SHURI KOCHI HWY 5 

HILL HEIGHTS RIDGE 




KOCHI AREA, where the 96th and Jjth Divisions attached vital Japanese positions. 
Attempting to reach Kochi through Onaga, south of Skyline Ridge, these tan\s (below) 
were lost 29 April when the American lead tan\ blocked the road forward. 




ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



2 7 I 



Onaga. A half mile west of Onaga was the village of Kochi. Between these two 
villages was high ground, the northern part of which was known as Horseshoe 
Ridge, and the 500-yard-long southern arm as Kochi Ridge. Beyond Kochi Ridge 
the ground rose in ever higher broken ridges and hills southwestwardly toward 



Shuri. 7 1 (See Map No. XXIX.) 



To the southwest of Kochi Ridge was Zebra Hill, a long, high stretch of 
ground which climbed toward the still higher ground north of Shuri. A deep 
road cut separated the lower extremities of Kochi Ridge and Zebra. Opposite the 
road cut on the east, the Onaga side, were How and Item Hills, both of them 
flanking this important area. On the other side (west) of Kochi Ridge, and 
paralleling it, was Hill 138. This high ground surrounding Kochi Ridge on three 
sides was held by the Japanese. From these points the enemy had observation 
of the Kochi area, and from the same circle of high ground mortars and machine 
guns could concentrate their fire on Kochi Ridge, which was also a well-organ- 
ized strong point. 

The ijth Infantry Attacks Kochi Ridge 

On 25 April the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, against surprisingly little 
resistance, advanced 600 yards across the flat ground on the 7th Division right 
(west) to occupy the slope of Horseshoe Ridge. The next day the 1st Battalion 
tried to advance along the west side of Kochi Ridge, and the 2d Battalion along 
the east side. As soon as this effort began, the reverse-slope fighting technique 
of the Japanese came into play, and prearranged mortar and machine-gun fire 
from surrounding heights swept over the area. The attack was stopped and all 
the troops fell back to their former positions except one platoon of Company G 
that dug in on the east side of the ridge for a precarious foothold. Neither bat- 
talion had observation of the other's movements; neither could gain possession 
of the crest of the ridge; each fought essentially an isolated action on its own 
side of the ridge. By the evening of 26 April, it was evident that the 17th Infantry 
had come up solidly against the Japanese manning the Kochi sector of the line. 
The next day, a rainy, muddy day, efforts to establish physical contact between the 
1st and 2d Battalions failed. There was no gain but there were many casualties. 

Before dawn of 28 April the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, relieved the 1st 
Battalion on the west side of Kochi Ridge and took up the attack under the 
command of Lt. Col. Lee Wallace. Colonel Wallace hoped to move men around 
Kochi Ridge into the cut between the ridge and Zebra, and then to take the 

1 The account of operations of the 7th Division in the Kochi sector is taken from Gugeler, 7th Div 
History, Ch. 5. 



272 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Kochi Ridge defenses in the rear and flank. He succeeded in getting Company 
K through Kochi to the cut, while Company L moved southward along the 
west slope. But once at the cut the company received a blast of machine-gun fire 
that killed four and wounded eight. Thereafter Company K kept under cover 
until it could work its way back. In the meantime Company L was unable to 
reach the crest. 

The attack remained stalled on 29 April. Whenever any serious movement 
threatened, the Japanese concentrated the fire of from twelve to fourteen 
mortars on the endangered spot and denied it to the attackers. To add to the 
misfortunes of the men, twelve rounds of friendly 105-mm. artillery shells fell 
short, landing in the midst of Company G on the east side of Kochi Ridge. 
Five men were killed and eighteen wounded in one platoon, and an adjacent 
platoon was left with only twelve men. In addition to the killed and wounded, 
there were eighteen cases of concussion and shock. Company G now had only 
twenty-seven men left in the rifle platoons. 

On the morning of 30 April, Company E took the place in the line formerly 
held by Company G and started forward. Suddenly, at 0845, it was hit by cross 
fire from about eight machine guns located on l)oth flanks and to the front. 
This was followed by a mortar concentration. Losses were heavy. Twenty men 
were killed, and in one squad only two men were left. The wounded were 
helpless. Smoke placed over the men was blown away quickly by a brisk 
wind and offered almost no protection ; even those not wounded were unable to 
withdraw, and relief parties could not come forward. Medical supplies were 
finally dropped by a cub plane from a height of fifty feet, in the face of small- 
arms fire. After dark most of the wounded were brought back . 

Farther down the slope toward Onaga, Company I was struck by a Japanese 
counterattack of about 25 men at 1100, and 5 men were killed and 11 wounded. 
On the same day a carrier-based Corsair strafed behind the lines of the 17th 
Infantry, killing 6 and wounding 19 in a tragic blunder. Unquestionably, 30 
April was a bad day for the 17th Infantry Regiment. Since 26 April the regiment 
had suffered more than 60 casualties from friendly fire. 

While the 17th Infantry was trying vainly to find some way of taking 
Kochi Ridge, the 32d Infantry to its east was delayed in opening an attack by 
lack of success around Kochi. On 28 April an attack on the ridge southwest 
of Kuhazu put armored flame throwers into the village, but the infantry was 
stopped by heavy mortar concentrations. On the 29th, when tanks tried to reach 
Onaga from the coast, one of them hit a mine on a narrow road among the 



ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



rice paddies near Unaha and was knocked out, blocking the road. Three of 
the remaining four tanks turned over or threw their tracks and were lost in 
trying to turn around. The 32d Infantry was now trying to help the situation at 
Kochi by putting pressure on enemy positions to the southeast. 

In a predawn attack on 30 April the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, successfully 
placed Company C on "Chimney Crag" and Company A in the "Roulette 
Wheel" on the ridge southwest of Kuhazu. Japanese in large numbers infiltrated 
behind the lines of these companies during the night and disrupted the relief 
of the 32d by the 184th, the completion of which was to take place before dawn 
of 1 May but was not accomplished until 1730 in the afternoon. In fighting 
its way back after being relieved in the line, the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, lost 
eleven men killed and twenty-two wounded. 

That night, 1-2 May, a penetration was made by Company L, 184th 
Infantry, to Gaja Ridge just in front of Conical Hill. The advantage gained by 
this surprise move was lost at the end of the day when the men were withdrawn 
by company officers in direct violation of orders to hold the ground despite 
heavy casualties. 
The Kochi Fight Continues 

The fight at Kochi Ridge continued during the early days of May, the 17th 
Infantry making only negligible gains. On 1 May an armored bulldozer pre- 
pared an approach from the west to the top of Kochi Ridge between Knobs 1 
and 2. An armored flame thrower moved up the approach and twice burned the 
area, but it was unable to reach the enemy strong points on the east side just over 
the crest. Onaga was mopped up during the day, but otherwise the infantry 
undertook no movement and remained in their dug-in positions, engaging in 
intermittent grenade duels. 

At dawn of 2 May the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, relieved the 2d Battalion 
on the east side of Kochi Ridge. It was a bad day, dark with mist and rain. Once 
again the flame thrower climbed to the saddle between Knobs 1 and 2 and 
spurted flame at enemy positions. Troops of the 1st Battalion then tried to take 
Knob 1 from the east side but failed, largely because of the heavy mortar fire 
which fell on them. During the night sniper positions were dug through the 
ridge by both battalions to give observation of areas that were hidden from view. 

On 3 May, after a dawn artillery preparation, the 1st Battalion on the east 
and the 3d Battalion on the west side moved forward for a coordinated attack, 
which included a movement by Company C against How Hill on the east flank 
of Kochi Ridge. The entire effort came to nothing as the enemy soon halted all 



274 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



forward movement by a mass of artillery and mortar fire, together with intense 
machine-gun and rifle fire. Grenades also were brought into play. 

General Hodge, XXIV Corps commander, was disturbed by the continued 
failure of the 7th Division to make gains at Kochi Ridge. This failure was largely 
caused by the fact that limited knowledge of the mutually supporting Japanese 
positions hindered the launching of a coordinated divisional attack. Here, as in 
so many other sectors on Okinawa, the thorough integration of the Japanese 
defenses across the entire front brought combined fire power on one American 
regimental sector so great that the troops were denied the freedom of movement 
necessary to effective attack. 8 

The Maeda Escarpment Barrier 

The eastern end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment dominated the 96th Divi- 
sion front in the center of the line. It loomed directly ahead on the division 
right — a huge, forbidding, sheer cliff. The part of the escarpment lying within 
the 96th Division zone was called by the division the "Maeda Escarpment" after 
the village of Maeda, situated just over the crest on the reverse (south) slope. It 
was also called "Hacksaw Ridge" and the "Big Escarpment." The hill mass cen- 
tering on the eastern end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment was often called Hill 
196 in the official reports. 9 R See Map No. XXX.^I 

At its eastern end the escarpment terminates abruptly in a gigantic sentinel- 
like monolith, called "Needle Rock." To the left (east) of Needle Rock a 200- 
yard saddle dips toward Hill 150, and 400 yards east of Hill 150 across another 
saddle is Hill 152, which marks the corner where the high ground of the Urasoe- 
Mura Escarpment formation turns at right angles to the southwest. The 
Ginowan-Shuri road (Route 5) bends around the corner of Hill 152 and then 
heads southwest toward Shuri, following the slope of the high ground on the 
west. 

On 25 April the 96th Division was deployed with the 383d Regiment on 
the left, extending from the vicinity of Kochi to Hill 150; on the division right 
(west) the 381st Regiment stood in front of the escarpment. All of 25 April 
was spent by the 96th Division in studying this formidable terrain and in 
pounding known or suspected enemy positions in it. Thirty-six artillery concen- 

"Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 274-75. 

9 The account of operations of the 96th Division at Maeda Escarpment is, unless otherwise noted, 
taken from Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. III. 



ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



275 



trations, comprising 1,616 rounds, were fired in the zone of the 381st Infantry 
alone. Air strikes burned the escarpment with napalm bombs. 
The Japanese Rampart Holds 

On 26 April the attack against the Maeda Escarpment was launched. The 
infantry had little trouble in moving up the forward face, but when Company 
G of the 381st Infantry clambered to the top of the escarpment it suffered 
eighteen casualties in a matter of minutes. The Japanese on the Maeda Escarp- 
ment used to perfection their technique of reverse-slope defense. It was not 
difficult to occupy the forward slope of the ground, but the crest and the reverse 
slope were forbidden land. There the battle was to be fought. 

Company F at Needle Rock tried to place men on the point of the escarp- 
ment by means of a human ladder, but the first three men to reach the top were 
killed at once by machine-gun fire. Just before dark Company E attempted to 
occupy some small knolls in Maeda, south of the Hill 150 saddle, but once the 
men were on the ground the knolls were swept by fire from about a dozen 
machine guns, which immediately killed two men and wounded six. Four 
hundred rounds of 81-mm. and 4.2-inch smoke shells were used in screening 
the withdrawal of the company in the gathering dusk. 

Farther to the east there was, for a time, promise of considerable success. 
Elements of the 383d Regiment reached the crests of Hills 150 and 152 to find 
the ground below alive with Japanese. They estimated that they could see 600 
of the enemy, who were unaccountably exposed. Machine gunners, BAR men, 
and individual riflemen had a field day. One BAR man was reported to have 
killed thirty Japanese. Tanks and armored flame throwers were able to move 
into the edge of Maeda and wreak havoc. Scores of the enemy were driven from 
caves by flame and then shot down as they fled. 

This action on the crest and reverse slopes of Hills 150 and 152, and the 
penetration of the armor to Maeda on 26 April, had immediate and violent 
repercussions at jid Army headquarters. At 1600 in the afternoon General 
Ushijima issued a terse order: 

The enemy with troops following tanks has been advancing into the southern and 
eastern sectors of Maeda since about 1300. The 626 Division will dispatch local units . . . 
attack the enemy advancing in the Maeda sector and expect to repulse him decisively. 10 

At the same time, adjacent 24th Division units were ordered to cooperate in this 
effort regardless of division boundary. Two hours later the Japanese command- 

10 Tenth Army Transl No. 272, 13 Jul 45: j2d Army Ord No. 174, 26 Apr 45. 



276 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



ing general issued another order: "The army will crush the enemy which has 
broken through near Maeda. The 24th Division will put its main strength north- 
east of Shuri this evening." 11 In these orders can be seen the underlying reason 
why in the ensuing four days the 96th Division gained only yards. The Japanese 
meant to hold at Maeda and they did. 
Reverse Slope Classic 

On the left of the escarpment, at the corner where the high ground turns 
sharply southwest, the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, and elements of the 383d 
Infantry on 27 April worked their way through the saddle between Hills 150 and 
152, supported by tanks of the 763d Tank Battalion and armored flame throwers 
of the 713th. In a notable example of tank-infantry action they engaged in hours 
of carnage. The tanks and flame throwers burned and blasted enemy positions, 
flushing out of their underground positions hundreds of Japanese who were then 
cut down by the infantry or by the machine guns of the tanks. Tanks and infantry 
penetrated to the south edge of Maeda, but here the infantry was stopped by 
enemy fire. On top of the escarpment an all-out effort was made to reduce the 
large underground pillbox that separated Companies F and G, but the attempt 
failed. 12 Although many Japanese were killed southeast of the escarpment, no 
ground was won permanently this day except for very slight advances in Maeda 
near Hills 150 and 152. 

On 28 April Company K of the 381st Infantry, in an effort to weaken resist- 
ance at the escarpment, moved through the 27th Division zone to the west and 
attacked southeast through Nakama toward the "Apartment House." This was 
a large concrete school building, used as barracks, which was a center of Japanese 
strength; it was situated south of the escarpment between the villages of Nakama 
and Maeda. In a half hour of hand-to-hand fighting, Company K was repulsed 
with heavy losses, and survivors withdrew under smoke. Company K was now 
down to twenty-four effectives. Because both were greatly reduced in numbers, 
Companies K and I, 381st Infantry, were combined into one company which 
had a consolidated strength of only 70 men, 4 machine gunners from the heavy 
weapons company, and 1 artillery observer. 13 

During the early morning of 29 April, Japanese counterattacks were com- 
mon across the entire 96th Division front. At 0515 the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, 
was attacked heavily by enemy armed with grenades and spears. One platoon of 

11 Tenth Army Transl No. 273, 13 Jul 45: 32c! Army Ord No. 175, 26 Apr 45. 

12 See also 713th Tk Bn Actn Rpt, Ch. 1, pp. 6-7; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, pp. 25-26. 

13 See also 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, pp. 26-27. 




TANK-INFANTRY ATTACKS marked the battle for the escarpment. An armored 
flame thrower of the 713th Tan\ Battalion, protected by infantry against enemy satchel- 
charge attacks, sprays flame over a knob on the crest of the escarpment. 




MAEDA ESCARPMENT STRONG POINTS included the Apartment House and a 
cave-tunnel-pillbox networ\. The Apartment House barracks area (above), just east of 
Na/^ama, was captured 5 May as the jojth Infantry, jjth Division, cleaned out reverse slope 
of Maeda Escarpment. Demolitions played a large part in capture of the maze of caves, 
tunnels, and pillboxes some 200 feet from the east end of the escarpment. Great sections of 
the hilltop were blasted away (below), blocking cave entrances in the escarpment' s face. 




ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



Company G was reduced from 30 to 9 men in this fight. In repulsing two counter- 
attacks, the 383d Infantry killed approximately 265 Japanese. 14 Later in the day 
tanks and armored flame throwers spearheaded the action, during which they 
killed more than 200 of the enemy. 15 

The left (east) flank of the division on 29 April surged ahead to thrust a 
salient closer to Shuri than any other point of the Corps line. The crest of Hill 
138 was seized again by Company L of the 383d Infantry in furious close combat. 
One machine-gun position on the crest was destroyed in banzai fashion by Pfc. 
Gabriel Chavez, who rushed it with a grenade in his hand and took five Japanese 
and himself to death in the grenade explosion. Tanks worked into position near 
the top of Hill 138 and engaged in duels with enemy 47-mm. antitank guns to 
the south; for the first time in the month-old Okinawa battle direct fire was 
placed in Shuri, a little over a mile to the southwest. 16 

On 29 April the 307th Infantry of the 77th Division took over the Maeda 
Escarpment part of the line from the 381st Infantry, and the next morning the 
306th relieved the 383d Infantry on the 96th Division left. At noon on 30 April, 
General Bruce, Commanding General of the 77th Division, assumed responsi- 
bility for the former 96th Division zone of action on the Corps front. The end 
of April also witnessed a regrouping among the Japanese units on the line. In 
response to the urgent orders of the Japanese commander on 26 April, when the 
Maeda sector was threatened, the ^2d Regiment of the 24th Division hurried 
northward to the Maeda sector but apparently did not take over front-line duty 
until 28 April. It then went into the middle sector between the 22d Regiment of 
the 24th Division on the east and the badly mauled 62^ Division, which was now 
occupying the western third of the front. 

By the time it was relieved, the 381st had been reduced to about 40 percent 
combat efficiency and had suffered 1,021 casualties, 536 of them in the Maeda 
Escarpment fighting of the past four days. Some platoons were down to five 
or six men. 17 Many of the men were so exhausted that they did not have the 
energy to carry their equipment down the slope to the road below where trucks 
were waiting to take them to the rear. 

14 Ibid., p. 27. 

16 See also 713th Tk Bn Actn Rpt, Ch. I, p. 8. 
18 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 27. 

17 381st Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 36-37. 



280 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Demolition Battle 

When the 307th Infantry moved into the line on 29 April, it found itself 
on the flat top of an escarpment which at its eastern end at the Needle Rock was 
not more than two feet wide. From this point westward the escarpment crest 
gradually widened until it was from 100 to 150 feet across. The reverse slope 
dropped abruptly, but its height was not as great as that of the northern face. 
It was on this reverse (southern) slope of the escarpment that the Japanese had 
their intricate network of caves and tunnels connecting with pillboxes on top 
of the escarpment. The nature of this underground fortress is illustrated by an 
incident of 2 May. On that day a tank fired six phosphorus shells into a cave 
and within fifteen minutes observers saw smoke emerging from more than 
thirty other hidden openings along the slope. 18 

There were innumerable attacks and counterattacks, grenade duels, satchel- 
chargings of dugouts and caves, horrifying night encounters, and many little 
strategems used by both sides to win advantages in the hand-to-hand demolition 
battle of the Maeda Escarpment.. Air strikes, employing both demolition and 
napalm bombs, were made almost daily against the escarpment positions. Tanks 
and armored flame throwers worked against the southeastern slope. Yet the 
top of the escarpment, in the words of the men who fought there, was "all 
hell rolled into one." It took Lt. Col. Gerald D. Cooney's 1st Battalion, 307th 
Infantry, on the left side of the line, five days to gain control of Needle Rock. 
Men of the battalion were driven from Needle Rock and the top of the 
escarpment nine times before they held them for good. 

During the night of 30 April-i May, the 1st Battalion, 307th, brought up 
to the escarpment four 50-foot ladders and five cargo nets, the latter borrowed 
from the Navy. On 1 May Company A troops mounted the ladders at the eastern 
end of the escarpment, but every man who stood up was killed or wounded. 
Farther to the west, however, Company B, using the cargo nets, had two platoons 
on the edge of the escarpment by nightfall. About midnight Japanese counter- 
attacked in this area and drove the men off the escarpment. 

On the division right the 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, on 1 May moved 
through the 27th Division zone behind the escarpment to Nakama village, from 
where it attacked eastward toward the Apartment House barracks area. During 
this action a Japanese shell exploded an ammunition dump in Nakama, killing 

18 The account of operations of the 77th Division at Maeda Escarpment is based on the following: Leach, 
77th Div History, Vol. II; 77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa, pp. 35-43; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, 
pp. 259-64. 



ASSAULTING THE SECOND SHURI DEFENSE RING 



five men and disrupting ammunition supply for hours. On 2 May, Companies 
A and B placed men back on the edge of the escarpment but made no real gain. 
Machine-gun fire was so intense that one man was decapitated. During 3 May 
the 1 st Battalion, 307th Infantry, fought a desperate grenade battle to win the top 
of part of the escarpment. The Japanese showered the top with grenades and 
knee mortars from the reverse slope and with 81-mm. mortar fire from a distance. 
Men came back across the narrow top of the escarpment to the north side, swear- 
ing and crying, saying they would not go back into the fight. "Yet," observed one 
platoon leader, "in five minutes' time those men would go back there tossing 
grenades as fast as they could pull the pins." 19 
Maeda Escarpment Bastion Falls 

The fighting was especially fierce on top the escarpment on 4 May. Colonel 
Cooney's 1st Battalion successfully executed a complicated demolition assault 
on the big cave-tunnel-pillbox network about 200 feet west of the eastern end 
of the escarpment. The battalion then held the newly won ground against 
repeated counterattacks from the southern side. It was estimated that 600 enemy 
were killed by the 307th Infantry in the fighting at the escarpment on 4 May. 
Slowly, on 5 May, the reverse slope was taken and caves blasted and closed. On 
the night of 5-6 May the Japanese staged several counterattacks in an effort to 
win back the escarpment. An especially severe attack struck the 3d Battalion, 
307th Infantry, on the regimental right. In repelling it the 3d Battalion killed 
250 enemy troops, largely in hand-to-hand fighting. During 6 May all battalions 
of the 307th Infantry advanced southward to the slopes of Hill 187. The battle 
of the escarpment was over. 

One of the most remarkable incidents of the battle for the Maeda Escarp- 
ment was the performance of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, a medical aid man attached 
to Company B, 307th Infantry. Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist and would 
not touch a gun, but time after time he remained on top of the escarpment after 
the others had been driven off, lowering the wounded over the side in a rope 
litter. He went repeatedly to within a few yards of caves to administer first aid 
to men who had been cut down trying to assault the positions, and then carried 
these men to safety under the very guns of the enemy. For his valor Doss later 
received the Congressional Medal of Honor. 20 

The losses in the escarpment battle had been heavy. In the 1st Battalion, 
307th Infantry, no less than eight company commanders were wounded in one 

w Leach, 77th Div Hist, Vol. II, p. 13. 
"WD GO 97, 1 Nov 45. 



282 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



36-hour period. It had gone up on the escarpment on 29 April with a strength of 
about 800 men; it came down on 7 May with 324. The 77th Division estimated 
that it had killed upwards of 3,000 Japanese in the 7-day battle for the escarp- 
ment. 21 

While at the Maeda Escarpment and in a few other sectors the American 
attack continued through the first week of May, yet, in general, this attack was 
brought to an unexpected pause after 3 May. (SeeMapNo.XXXI.) On 4May the 
enemy launched a surprise counteroffensive by which he hoped to wrest back 
from the invaders all that they had so painfully gained. For a time most Ameri- 
can troops had all they could do to hold their own. 

21 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 264; 77th Div Actn Rpt, p. 43. 



CHAPTER XII 



The Japanese CounterofFensive 
and Its Aftermath 

A hundred feet below Shuri Castle, in a small chamber shored up with 
heavy beams, the top commanders of the Japanese yid Army met on the night 
of 2 May to make a fateful decision. General Ushijima's staff was still divided 
over strategy. General Cho, the chief of staff, continued to press for an immediate 
large-scale attack. The time was ripe, he said, for a decisive blow. Colonel 
Yahara, clinging to his faith in defensive tactics, opposed the attack as premature. 

Sake was flowing freely, and the meeting became tense and quarrelsome. 
When it was proposed that the 63d Brigade of the 6id Division come under 
command of the 24th Division for an attack, the brigade commander, General 
Nakashima, retorted hotly with a pointed and biting comparison of the abilities 
of the 62d and 24th Divisions. His brigade would not fight as a mere branch of 
a weak tree; rather it would die where it stood. General Nakashima won his 
point, and the meeting moved quickly to a decision. General Fujioka, com- 
mander of the 62d Division, vehemently backed up Cho. Most of the Japanese 
commanders were impatient with defensive fighting and saw no prospect of 
success in a battle of attrition. Colonel Yahara's warnings were unavailing, and 
once again he was overruled. General Ushijima ordered an all-out offensive by 
32^ Army for 4 May. 1 

Planning the Offensive 

Plan for Combined Operations 

Even before the Japanese commanders conferred at Shuri headquarters, 
their operations officers had been framing attack orders and telephoning the 
gist of them to unit commanders. The final plan was ambitious. The enemy 
aspired to destroy the XXIV Corps on Okinawa and to disable the Allied 
fleet offshore in a series of heavy, coordinated blows. To this end he committed 
a sizeable portion of his ground, air, and amphibious forces. 

1 The account of the conference is based on Interrog Yahara; Interrog Shimada; Tenth Army Int Mono- 
graph, Pt. II, Sec. D: 32d Army Hq, Shuri; PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 6zd Division. 



284 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The 24th Division was to make the main effort in the ground attack. This 
unit, comprising approximately 15,000 men under the command of General 
Amamiya, was largely intact on 3 May except for its 22d Regiment, which had 
seen extended action. Amamiya's mission was to drive strong spearheads through 
the center and left (east) of the American lines. Once the XXIV Corps front 
was disrupted, his remaining forces, supported by other Japanese units pouring 
through the gaps, would systematically destroy the Corps in a series of day 
and night attacks. 

The amphibious attack was to come in the form of landings from barges 
over the beaches behind the American front lines. Several hundred men of the 
26th Shipping Engineer Regiment, loaded with light arms and satchel charges, 
were ordered to land on the west and destroy American tanks and artillery. 
The 23d "Engineers had a similar mission on the east coast. The raiders were 
formally detached from their units and ordered not to return. 2 

The Japanese offensive was to coincide with a major attack by Kamikaze 
planes and suicide boats against the American ships off Okinawa. The enemy 
was convinced that a successful assault against American supply lines would 
be a decisive blow in the campaign. The unending stream of supplies and ships 
was demoralizing to him. "There were so many they looked like an island," a 
member of the 24th Division wrote plaintively on the eve of the attack after he 
viewed the American ships. "I wish we could somehow get air superiority back." 3 
Plan for the Ground Attac\ 

The Japanese planned their ground attack with extreme care. This was to 
be no banzai charge. The enemy's intelligence had formed an accurate estimate 
of American dispositions, and his orders were clear and explicit. Divisions, regi- 
ments, battalions, and companies were given definite objectives and precise 
boundaries. Units in close support followed designated routes. Commanders 
were ordered to dispatch infiltrating squads to gain up-to-date information. 
The efforts of supporting arms, such as artillery, tanks, and engineers, were 
thoroughly integrated with the infantry action. 4 

2 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 6, 3 Aug 45: Shipping Engineers. 

3 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 45, 16 May 45. 

4 Seven Japanese orders for the attack were later captured. Two were 2.4th Division orders covering 
the entire ground attack; the others were regimental and battalion orders. The j2d Army orders were not 
recovered. For copies of the orders see Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt. I, Sec A, p. 13; 96th Div G— 2 
Periodic Rpt, No. 42, 13 May 45, and No. 44, 15 May 45; 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 36, 6 May 45. 
See also Interrog Yahara and Shimada; Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4, 1 Aug 45: 44th 
Independent Mixed Brigade. 



THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



285 



The 24th Division, occupying the eastern half of the front, was to open the 
attack at daybreak of "X Day," 4 May. "After effecting a quick rupture of the 
enemy front lines," General Amamiya's order read, "the division will continue 
penetration and annihilate him at all points by continuous night and day 
attacks." By sunset of the first day the Japanese were to have penetrated two miles 
into the opposing lines to a point northeast of Tanabaru. The final objective was 
an east-west line at Futema, site of the 96th Division command post, which the 
Japanese mistakenly thought to be General Buckner's headquarters. 

The attack was to be two-pronged. Following a 30-minute artillery prepara- 
tion at daybreak, the 89th Regiment on the east was to break through in the 
Onaga area. The Regiment, also supported by artillery, was to penetrate 
American lines in the Maeda area. Tanks were to support both prongs. Raiding 
and infiltration units were ordered to follow in the wake of the "break-through 
troops." Once the 24th Division was established at the first objective northeast 
of Tanabaru, the Japanese troops were to dig in against American counterattacks, 
set up antitank traps, and prepare to continue the attack northward. 

The 22d Regiment and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade had special 
missions. Located in the center of the 24th Division's line, the 22d Regiment 
was to screen the advance of the other two regiments with smoke and fire. 
Then, echeloned to the left rear of the 89th Regiment, the 22d would join 
in the attack. The 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, a fresh unit, was ordered 
to protect the Japanese left flank during the attack. Following the expected 
break-through east of Maeda, the 44th was to turn left toward Oyama on the 
west coast and thus cut off the 1st Marine Division. The enemy high command 
evidently considered the break-through at Maeda to be the critical blow, for 
his troops were especially well supported by tanks, artillery, and antitank 
elements. 



(See Map No. XXXII.) 



Rear TLchelon Support 

The Japanese reasoned that success depended on the extent to which they 
could support their front-line troops with artillery, tanks, supplies, and com- 
munications. Their plans specified in detail the role that each of the support 
units was to play in the projected operations. 

Artillery units were ordered to regroup in preparation for the attack. Guns 
and howitzers were pulled out of cave positions and set up farther south in 
more open emplacements for greater flexibility. They were to open fire thirty 
minutes before the attack. When the infantry had driven through the American 



286 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



front lines, artillerymen were to move their weapons forward. The 2jth Tan\ 
Regiment, hitherto uncommitted, was ordered to move from its position near 
Yonabaru during the night over several routes and support the attack in the 
Maeda area. 

Japanese signalmen had the task of putting in a trunk line between the 
Shuri headquarters and a point behind the front. As the troops moved forward, 
the line was to follow. Before dawn on the 4th, a signal net was to connect 
"break-through units" with artillery and transport elements. First-aid sections, 
two of which were assigned to each of the spearheads, would collect the wounded 
in caves and send the worst cases to the rear on trucks and carts. Engineers 
were responsible for road maintenance and for "mopping up" behind the 
assault troops. 

Ammunition and other supplies were carefully allotted. The infantry was 
allowed rations for ten days. Trucks were to follow the troops closely, working 
out of designated supply points. General Amamiya ordered that "critical ma- 
terials will be supplied with caution when required, and captured stores will 
be used to best advantage. The division's fighting strength will be constantly 
maintained and cultivated." 5 

The offensive was to open at dawn of 4 May. "Display a combined strength," 
final orders read. "Each soldier will kill at least one American devil." 6 

The Offensive Under Way 

All these preparations the Japanese concealed with remarkable skill. On 2 
May Col. Cecil W. Nist, XXIV Corps intelligence officer, noted a definite 
decrease in the volume and intensity of enemy artillery fire, and sound-plots 
located Japanese pieces nine miles south of their front lines. Colonel Nist con- 
jectured that the enemy was withdrawing his guns farther south — a move which 
could foreshadow a general Japanese withdrawal. No one divined the enemy's 
real intent. General Buckner believed that the enemy's rigid type of defense 
made it impossible for him to launch more than minor counterattacks. 7 

Japanese rear areas, quiescent during the daylight hours when there was 
constant air observation, burst into activity soon after sundown on 3 May. 
Artillery opened up with heavy concentrations on American front lines. Enemy 

6 Tenth Army Transl No. 116, i Jun 45: 24th Div Ord No. 179, 2 May 45; 77th G-2 Periodic Rpt 
No. 51, 16 May 45. 

6 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 36, 6 May 45. 

7 XXIV Corps G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 32, 3 May 45; interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 1 May 45. 



THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



287 



troops moved up to their appointed positions. Small units of three or four men, 
variously designated as "reconnaissance raiding" and "rear harassing" teams, 
proceeded toward the American lines to attack command posts, heavy weapons, 
communications, and depots and to send back information by means of smoke 
signals. The 27th Tan\ Regiment rumbled up to Ishimmi, several of its tanks 
being severely damaged by American artillery fire en route. 8 On beaches south of 
Naha and Yonabaru, men of the shipping engineer regiments piled into barges 
and assault boats. 

"The time of the attack has finally come," a Japanese infantryman wrote 
in his diary during the evening. "I have my doubts as to whether this all-out 
offensive will succeed, but I will fight fiercely with the thought in mind that this 
war for the Empire will last 100 years." 9 
Sorties in the Night 

The Kamikazes struck at American shipping at dusk on 3 May. Five suicide 
planes crashed into the Aaron Ward inside of one hour, firing the ship and 
killing or wounding ninety-eight men. Three others carrying bombs sank the 
Little. Two vessels were sunk and four damaged, but American planes and anti- 
aircraft fire accounted for fourteen suicide planes and twenty-two other enemy 
aircraft before dark. The Japanese also bombed shore installations, concentrating 
on Yontan airfield. 19 

Armed with antitank guns, heavy machine guns, light arms, and thousands 
of satchel charges, several hundred men of the 26th Shipping Engineer Regiment 
headed under overcast skies for landing places below Yontan and Kadena air- 
fields. They miscalculated their position and turned, into the shore at a point 
where it was heavily defended. At 0200 riflemen of the 1st Marine Division on 
the sea wall near Kuwan caught sight of ten barges and opened up with con- 
centrated fire. Naval flares lighted up the area. One company fired 1,100 rounds 
from 60-mm. mortars. Several enemy barges burst into flames. One platoon of 
marines used fifty boxes of ammunition and burned out six machine-gun 



barrels as it sprayed the Japanese trying to cross the reef. (See Map No. XXXIII.) 



Many of the enemy managed to reach the shore; some of these fled back 
to the Japanese lines and others were cornered in Kuwan, where the marines 
mopped them up at leisure. All the landing boats were destroyed. A smaller 
group of Japanese advanced almost as far as Chatan, landing one and one-half 

8 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 8, 25 Jul 45: 2jth Tan\ Regiment. 
7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 38, 8 May 45. 
10 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, III-75, 76. 




JAPANESE AIR AND SEA ATTACK on transports left supply craft beached and still burn- 
ing the morning of 4 May. Scene above is near mouth of the Bishi River. Some 48-foot 
folding landing craft (below), a type used by the Japanese in their attempted surprise 
landing during the night of 3-4 May, were found at Naha after its capture. 




THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



289 



miles south of there at Isa, but they were contained without major difficulty 
and during the following day were destroyed. 11 

The shipping engineers were even less successful on the east coast of Oki- 
nawa. After a trip northward in various types of boats, including native-type 
boats rowed by Boeitai, several hundred tried to land behind the 7th Division 
lines, but most of them were killed by fire from ships in Buckner Bay or by the 
7th Division Reconnaissance Troop and 776th Amphibious Tank Battalion on 
land. 12 

The amphibious attack was a complete fiasco. The enemy lost from 500 to 
800 men and almost all their landing craft. The engineer regiments never 
mounted another amphibious attack of any proportion; the survivors fought as 
infantry in the final operations on Okinawa. 
The 24th Division Attacks 

Never had the 7th Infantry Division in its long combat in the Pacific experi- 
enced such shelling as swept its front lines during the night of 3-4 May. The 
enemy, using all types of weapons down to 20-mm., fired more than 5,000 rounds 
on the division during the night. To reach the Americans in their foxholes, he 
used airburst artillery and 70-mm. barrage mortar shells which burst in the air 
and in turn scattered more explosives to blow up on the ground. With their field 
pieces now in the open enjoying wide fields of fire, the Japanese artillerymen 
were gambling that the infantry attack would overwhelm XXIV Corps artillery 
before it could search out and destroy their weapons. 13 

In the pitch darkness Japanese troops made their way toward the American 
front lines. At 0500 two red flares ordered them to attack. As the artillery fire 
became heavy, a guard of Company A, 17th Infantry, on a hill just north of 
Onaga, dropped back below the crest for cover. He thought that the enemy 
would not attack through his own artillery, but the enemy did just that. A few 
Japanese appeared on the crest and set up a light machine gun. Pfc. Tillman H. 
Black, a BAR man, killed the gunner, and as more of the enemy came over the 
crest he killed four Japanese who tried to man the machine gun. The enemy 
advanced over the crest in ragged groups, enabling Black to hold his own. 
Soon the whole company was in action and drove the enemy off the 

11 XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 82, 14 May 45; G-2 Summary No. 8, 29 Apr-5 May 45, p. 4; 
Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 6, 3 Aug 45: Shipping Engineers; Stockman, 1st Mar Div 
History. 

12 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 34, 4 May 45; Gugeler, 7th Div History, p. 243; Tenth Army PW 
Interrog Rpt No. 10, 2 Jun 45. 

13 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 34, 4 May 45. 



290 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



crest. The Japanese abandoned three light machine guns, four mortars, and 
much ammunition. 14 

At another point a surprise attack nearly succeeded. On high ground 1,000 
yards east of Onaga a group of Japanese crept up the hill in front of Company I, 
184th, commanded by Capt. James Parker. In the sudden onslaught that fol- 
lowed, two heavy machine gun crews abandoned their positions. One of them 
left its weapon intact, and the Japanese promptly took it over and swung it 
around on the company. Parker, watching the attack from the ridge, had antici- 
pated the move. The Japanese managed to fire one burst; then Parker destroyed 
the usurped weapon with his remaining heavy machine gun. For an hour or two 
longer the Japanese clung to the forward slopes, firing their rifles amid shrill 
screams, but they made no further progress. 

By dawn the general pattern of the Japanese attack on the left (east) of the 
XXIV Corps line was becoming clear. In the lath's sector the enemy's 89th 
Regiment, following instructions to "close in on the enemy by taking advantage 
of cover," 10 had advanced around the east slopes of Conical Hill, crept across 
the flats, and assembled in force around the "Y ridges" east of Onaga. They had 
outflanked three companies of the 184th on Chimney Crag and the Roulette 
Wheel north of Kuhazu, and had also managed to evade the forward battalions 
of the 17th around Kochi. Another Japanese element had attacked 7th Division 
lines on the high ground north of Unaha. 

At dawn 1st Lt. Richard S. McCracken, commanding Company A, 184th, 
observed 2,000 Japanese soldiers in the open area east and north of Kuhazu. 
They were perfect "artillery meat." Unable to get through to his artillery 
support, McCracken called his battalion commander, Colonel Maybury, and 
described the lucrative targets. Maybury was equally pleased. McCracken 
suggested, however, that the Colonel should not be too happy — a group of Jap- 
anese at that moment was within 100 yards of Maybury's observation post. 

"Oh no," Maybury said, "that's a patrol from Company K down there." 

"I don't know who the hell it is," McCracken said, "but there's a lot of them 
and they've got two field pieces that are pointed right at your OP." 

There was indeed a party of Japanese busily unlimbering two 75-mm. 
howitzers just below Maybury. But Company C, 17th Infantry, had spotted this 
activity, and within a few minutes maneuvered tanks into position and scattered 

14 The account of the operations of the 7th Division during the Japanese attack is taken from Gugeler, 
7th Div History. 

15 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 36, 6 May 45. 



THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



291 



the enemy group. Artillery eliminated the Japanese caught in the open. 

The 3d Battalion, 184th, beat off an attack by 200 Japanese, who thereupon 
withdrew to the ruins of Unaha and set up mortars. A mortar duel ensued, 
sometimes at ranges of 250 yards. The 3d Battalion, 32d, also poured fire on the 
enemy there. After the impetus of the attack was lost, a Japanese officer stood 
out on open ground and waved his saber to assemble his men for an attack. 
American mortarmen waited for a worth-while target to develop, then put 
mortar fire on it. Four times the officer assembled a group, only to have his men 
killed or scattered, before he was finally killed. 

By 0800 the Japanese had been driven beyond grenade range on the entire 
7th Division front. But they did not abandon their attack, perhaps because they 
had been ordered to advance "even until the last man." 16 They made the mis- 
take of milling about in the exposed flatland, where they became perfect tar- 
gets; they neither pressed the attack nor essayed an organized withdrawal. 
American heavy weapons fenced off avenues of retreat in order to contain the 
enemy in open areas. "We laid them down like ducks," a platoon sergeant 
reported. 

Tan /{-Infantry Attac\ in the Center 

While the 7th Division was repelling the Japanese attack in the eastern 
sector of the XXIV Corps line, the 77th Division was blunting the other enemy 
"spearhead" in the center. Here the Japanese 32CI Regiment, supported by tanks 
and engineers^ attacked behind intense artillery fire. This sector was the critical 
point of attack, for a break-through here would enable the supporting 44th 
Independent Mixed Brigade to cut west and isolate the 1st Marine Division. 

Transportation difficulties beset the ^id Regiment almost from the start. 
During the night light tanks drove out of Shuri up the Ginowan road (Route 5), 
but American artillery interdicting the road prevented medium tanks from 
following. The mediums had to take a long detour, which was in such poor 
condition that only two of the tanks could enter into the attack. Trucks and 
artillery also were slowed down. Even foot troops had trouble in moving. 
One Japanese infantryman recorded that his column was shelled on the way 
and that everyone except himself and one other was wounded. Another wrote 
of encountering "terrific bombardment" on the way to Kochi. These difficulties 
severely handicapped the yid Regiment in ensuing operations. 17 
10 ibid. 

"Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 8, 25 Jul 45: 27th Tank. Regiment; Transl No. 154, 15 
Jun 45; Interrog Shimada; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 45, 16 May 45. 




POSITION OCCUPIED BY THE JAPANESE IN THEIR PENETRATION TO 
TANABARU ESCARPMENT, 4-7 MAY 




JAPANESE LAND OFFENSIVE of 4-5 May was opened by rocket barrages. The erratic 
paths of enemy fire shown above are in sharp contrast with those of the more accurate 
American weapons. Below, a \noc\ed-out Japanese light tan\ is examined by a 96th 
Division soldier. All enemy tanks used in the predawn offensive 4 May were destroyed. 




THE JAPANESE COUNTER-OFFENSIVE 



295 



Supported by nine light tanks, the 3d Battalion led the assault of the jid 
Regiment against the 306th Infantry, 77th Division, before dawn on 4 May. 
The enemy mounted his assault from southeast of Hill 187 and hit the 77th 
where Route 5 curled around the east end of Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. The 
Japanese drove into the front lines of the 1st Battalion, 306th, near Maeda. 
Although the enemy found the weak points of the line, American automatic 
fire split up the attacking forces. As in the case of their right "spearhead," the 
Japanese were unable to move into the American lines at any place with sufficient 
force to break through. The enemy's only success consisted of driving a platoon 
off one of the hills. American artillery was called in against the Japanese tanks. 
Several were knocked out, and, as the infantry stalled, the rest withdrew. 18 

Shortly before daylight, when the Japanese infantry had failed to take its 
initial objectives east of Hill 187, Colonel Murakami, commanding the 27 th 
Tan\ Regiment, became impatient and recklessly committed his own infantry 
company, a standard element of a Japanese tank regiment. American artillery 
fire destroyed one platoon, disrupting the attack, and daylight found the sur- 
viving troops in a precarious position across from the American lines. Colonel 
Murakami ordered the company to withdraw, but artillery fire prevented a 
retreat during the day. When the Japanese used smoke for concealment, the 
Americans simply blanketed the obscured area with shell fire. The survivors 
straggled back to their front lines after nightfall. All the light tanks that had 
supported the attack were lost. 19 

By 0730 the 306th Infantry had driven off the enemy. Broken up into small 
groups, the Japanese tried to pull back over ground swept by tremendous vol- 
umes of artillery and mortar fire, but few got through. Continued attack was 
impossible. At 0800 the commander of the Japanese 3d Battalion radioed the 
32d Regiment command post at Dakeshi: "Although the front lines on the high 
ground southeast of Maeda advanced to the line of the central sector and are 
holding, further advance is very difficult due to enemy fire. There is no tank 
cooperation." 20 
Artillery and Air Attack^ 

On 4 May, for the first time in the campaign, whole batteries of enemy artil- 
lery were visible. By bringing his field pieces out into the open the enemy was 

18 The account of the operations of the 77th Division during the Japanese attack is, unless otherwise 
noted, based on Leach, 77th Div History, Vol. II, Ch. II. 

19 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 310-11; XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 144, 15 Jun 45. 

20 77th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 51, 16 May 45. 



296 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



able to deliver more than 13,000 rounds onto American lines in support of the 
attack. He ringed his artillery with antiaircraft guns, chiefly 75-mm., to keep off 
cub planes, and he used smoke pots to hide the flashes of the firing. This gamble 
proved to be a costly failure. By taking advantage of area artillery barrages which 
drove Japanese antiaircraft crews to cover, American cub planes were able to 
pinpoint many Japanese artillery positions for precision fire. During 4 May 
American counterbattery destroyed nineteen enemy artillery pieces and during 
the next two days forty more. The Japanese thereupon moved their remaining 
weapons back into caves. With the lessening of Japanese artillery fire, the number 
of combat fatigue cases among American troops dropped correspondingly. 21 

The Japanese effort in the air on 4 May was more successful. From dawn 
to 1000 American naval forces were under continuous attack by enemy planes 
using Kamikaze tactics, and many of the light units were sunk or damaged. 
Four planes crashed into the U. S. destroyer Morrison, and the ship sank in 
eight minutes, with 154 casualties. A Baka bomb hit and fired the Shea, kill- 
ing twenty-five and flooding the forward compartments, but the ship stayed 
afloat. A plane over the transports in the Hagushi area, after receiving fire from 
many ships, dived straight down into the Birmingham just aft of Number 2 
turret. The impact carried the motor of the plane through three decks, and the 
250-pound bomb burst in the sick bay. There were ninety casualties. More Jap- 
anese planes attacked at dusk. A suicide flyer hit the escort carrier Sangamon, 
destroying twenty-one planes on the flight deck. Her entire hangar deck was 
gutted by fire, and all radar and bridge control was knocked out. From the eve- 
ning of 3 May until that of 4 May the Japanese had sunk or damaged 17 American 
ships and inflicted 682 naval casualties, while American planes and naval gunfire 
had destroyed 131 enemy planes. The enemy's air attack, which was simply 
one phase of his unceasing air campaign against the invading forces, amounted 
to 560 raids by 2,228 enemy planes between 1 April and 17 May and was probably 
the most profitable effort of his entire counterofTensive. 22 



Japanese Penetration to Tanabaru, 5 May 

General Amamiya refused to abandon the attack. Although both "spear- 
heads" of his 24th Division had smashed vainly against the American defenses, 

21 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 305-06; XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 112; G— 2 Summary No. 8, 
p. 5; Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 12, 3 Aug 45: Army AAA Units on Okinawa. 

22 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, IIT-75-79; IV-2-65; V-H-2-10. 



THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



297 



suffering heavy losses in the process, he ordered another assault for the night of 
4-5 May. The 1st Battalion, yid Regiment, and the attached 16th Independent 
Infantry Battalion were directed to penetrate XXIV Corps lines northwest of 
Kochi in a night attack. The 1st Battalion had been used in support of the Jap- 
anese left "spearhead" on the 4th, but it had not been fully committed and was 
still relatively intact. 

The reason for Amamiya's persistence after the morning's debacle is not 
clear, but one event of the day may well have led to his decision. Unknown to 
XXIV Corps, elements of the 1st Battalion, 22d Regiment, had penetrated more 
than 1,000 yards behind the American lines near Kochi. After dusk on the 4th 
these elements were ordered to pull back to their regimental lines. Amamiya 
may have reasoned that he had found a weak point in the American defenses. 
In any event the 1st Battalion ot the jid was given a similar route of approach, 
lying near the boundary between the 7th and 77th Divisions. 23 
Breakthrough at Night 

The Japanese, having shelled the lines of the 306th Infantry during the 
night of 4-5 May, at 0200 launched an attack on the 306th where it straddled 
Route 5 northwest of Kochi. American artillery broke up this attempt. Three 
hours later the enemy attacked in battalion strength, supported by tanks. 
Although six tanks were soon knocked out, the Japanese pressed on through 
artillery and mortar fire to engage the 306th in close combat. They isolated a 
battalion observation post and killed or wounded its five occupants. Despite 
hostile heavy mortar fire, the Japanese set up knee mortars and heavy machine 
guns close to the American lines and even tried — unsuccessfully — to emplace a 

24 

75-mm. gun. 

Fierce fire fights developed along the regiment's entire line. One enemy 
force, moving up a draw in close column formation, marched squarely into 
a company and was destroyed by automatic weapons fire. Most of the Japanese, 
unable to close in for hand-to-hand fighting, took refuge in ditches just in front 
of the American positions. Grenade duels and exchanges of automatic fire 
continued until midday. By dawn, however, the 306th had the situation in hand. 
American tanks moved along the ditches and machine-gunned the enemy. 
Some of the surviving Japanese, using smoke for concealment, managed to 
withdraw to their lines. They left 248 dead in the 77th Division's sector, 

23 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 37, 7 May 45, and No. 38, 8 May 45; Tenth Army PW Interrog Sum- 
mary No. 3, 2 Aug 45: 24th Division; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 41, 12 May 45. 

24 Leach, 77th Div History, Vol. II, Ch. II, pp. 37-40; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 313-15. 




TANABARU ESCARPMENT viewed from position of the lyth Infantry, yth Division, 
on a finger of Hill iy8. Company E, lyth, moved bac\ to the secondary crest (right) on 
morning of 6 May after enemy had counterattacked in force. Below appear the north and 
west sides of the escarpment, where Company F, lyth, regained the hill y May. 




THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



together with numerous machine guns, mortars, rifles, and several hundred 
rounds of 75-mm. ammunition for the gun they had failed to get into action. 

Behind this noisy fire fight along Route 5, a large portion of the Japanese 
1st Battalion, -p.d Regiment, managed to infiltrate through the XXIV Corps 
line. The Japanese made their penetration at a point between Route 5 and 
Kochi. This route lay within the 77th Division sector but close to the divisional 
boundary between the 7th and 77th. About ninety of the infiltrating Japanese 
made their way into the command post of the 306th Infantry, but they did 
little damage and were killed during the following day. Most of the Japanese, 
numbering approximately 450, crossed the divisional boundary and reoccupied 
the town of Tanabaru and Tanabaru Ridge. The deepest penetration was more 
than a mile behind the Corps front. 25 

The town and ridge had constituted a strong point on the first Shuri 
defense line, dominating much of the adjacent area. This position had never 
actually been taken by American troops; the Japanese had abandoned it on the 
night of 23 April when the rest of the line cracked. The escarpment dropped 
abruptly in a steep coral cliff on the north. The town stretched along the 
southeast slope of the ridge and was divided by a road running south to Onaga 
and Kochi. The front-line battalions of the 17th Infantry, 7th Division, were 
supplied over this road. While the Japanese held at Tanabaru, this supply road 
was effectively cut. 
Battle Behind the Lines 

Through field glasses sentries of the 17th Infantry could see in the moonlight 
a column of troops moving northwest against the skyline on Tanabaru Escarp- 
ment. The 17th fired on some of the troops but was handicapped by fear of 
endangering friendly troops. Other Japanese columns apparently passed unde- 
tected. The enemy quickly located and cut the telephone wires between regi- 
mental headquarters and the three battalions, but the regiment was able to 
record enemy movements through its units in the rear areas. The Japanese alsc 
surrounded and attacked supply dumps at the base of the ridge and were barely 
prevented from destroying them. 26 

The job of cleaning out the infiltrating Japanese fell to Company E, which 
sent a patrol of platoon strength up the east slope of the escarpment. When the 
Japanese on the heights held up this patrol with fire, 1st Lt. Walter J. Sinkiewicz, 

25 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 316-17. 

29 The account of the operations of the 7th Division in retaking Tanabaru Escarpment is, unless other- 
wise noted, based on Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 255-63. 



300 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



commanding Company E, committed the rest of his unit. One platoon almost 
reached the top, but the enemy drove it back with mortar, machine-gun, and 
light-arms fire, killing two and wounding seven. A sharp fire fight developed, 
during which Sinkiewicz and his three platoon leaders were all wounded. 

The Japanese were meanwhile making the most of their position. Their 
fire covered the ist Battalion's supply dump and motor pool on the north side 
of the ridge, rendering them inaccessible to the Americans. Enemy groups in 
Tanabaru mined the supply road through the town and blanketed the road with 
machine-gun fire. A half-track carrying medical supplies was disabled by a 
mine, and a medical officer was killed as he tried to escape. The Japanese occupied 
the vehicle and converted it into a pillbox. An American patrol killed eleven 
Japanese in and around the vehicle. S/Sgt. Carl W. Johnson volunteered to 
retrieve the weapons in the half-track; he made three successful trips across 
exposed ground but was killed on the fourth. 

By noon of 5 May there was apprehension at the regimental command post, 
which had not fully appreciated the strength of the infiltration. From a hill near 
the command post Lt. Col. Albert V. Hartl, executive of the 17th Infantry, could 
plainly see several Japanese soldiers 600 yards away on Tanabaru Escarpment. 
The Japanese were in turn watching American activity. Lying on his stomach, 
Colonel Hartl fired some shots from an Mi at the Japanese to "neutralize" them. 
While he was so engaged, a soldier ran up with a radio report that the German 
armies had surrendered. "Well now," Hartl said, "if we just had the Japs off the 
escarpment we'd be all right, wouldn't we ?" 

With Company E stalled on the east slope of the escarpment, Company F 
attempted a broad flanking attack. Two of its platoons on the line, supported 
by tanks, pushed through Tanabaru and knocked out hastily established de- 
fenses. Beyond the town the company drew heavy fire from numerous caves, 
and it spent the rest of the day destroying the Japanese in these positions. Com- 
pany E thereupon took over the burden of the attack, and by 1730 it had reached 
the top of Tanabaru Escarpment behind a mortar preparation. This move en- 
abled the ist Battalion to transfer its vehicles and supplies to a safer location, but 
the supply route was still blocked. 

Early in the morning of 6 May a force of Japanese just below Company E 
pressed in on the Americans with grenades and satchel charges. After suffering 
sixteen casualties in half an hour, Company E retreated off the top to a pro- 
tected ledge just below. Here the survivors formed a line and bombarded the 
top of the hill with grenades to deny it to the enemy. While some members of 



THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



301 



the company hauled new boxes of grenades up the steep trail, the others lobbed 
several hundred grenades on the Japanese, who withdrew from the exposed 
top at dawn. 

Company F returned to Tanabaru the same morning for a second sweep 
through the town and killed eight Japanese. Supported by mortar fire and aided 
by small-arms fire from Company E, Company F initially made rapid progress 
on the slope but then ran into a series of coral outcroppings. With portable flame 
throwers, mortar fire, and quantities of grenades, the troops eliminated all 
resistance on the slope by evening. 

On the following day, Company F attacked the crest of Tanabaru Escarp- 
ment from the west behind mortar fire and quickly gained the top. Trenches 
were littered with Japanese dead, most of them killed by 81-mm. mortar fire. 
The amount of Japanese and American equipment found on the escarpment 
explained the ability of the enemy to hold out so tenaciously. Enemy equipment 
included one 75-mm. pack howitzer with ammunition, 2 heavy machine guns, 
6 light machine guns, 2 knee mortars, 3 magnetic mines, and a large quantity 
of ammunition. Their American weapons consisted of 1 light machine gun, 2 
BAR's, 3 carbines, and 3 Tommy guns. A total of 462 Japanese were killed in 
the area of Tanabaru during the 3-day battle, most of them on the escarpment 
and others as they tried to make their way back to their lines. 27 
Failure of the Offensive 

By midnight of 5 May it was clear to General Ushijima that the offensive 
had failed. He had suffered tremendous casualties and had made no headway 
except in the Tanabaru area. Even there his troops were being compressed. Gen- 
eral Ushijima realized that he must revert to defensive warfare. "The Army will 
temporarily halt its offensive," he ordered, "because of the opportunity offered 
by the painful blows against the enemy. . . . The battle plan in the Shuri area 
sector will be an attrition of enemy strength until he has lost his endurance. The 
24th Division . . . will shift to a holding basis." 28 

Despite Ushijima's bravado, jid Army Headquarters was sunk in gloom 
over the failure of the offensive. During the day Ushijima called Colonel Yahara 
to his office and declared with tears in his eyes that henceforth he would be 
guided by Yahara's opinions. Yahara felt that the battle had been the decisive 
event of the campaign. Even General Cho, who was considered by many officers 
to be the incarnation of the fighting will of the Japanese Army, gave up hope 

27 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 37, 7 May 45; 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 37, 7 May 45. 

28 Tenth Army Transl No. 243, 7 Jul 45. 



302 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



for victory and said that defeat was only a matter of time. This pessimism was 
reflected down the line. One Japanese lieutenant wrote in his diary, "We real- 
ized that we were doomed when we heard of the failure of the 24th Division." 29 

The Japanese lost in the attack approximately 5,000 troops, including those 
killed in the counterlandings. The 24th Division was greatly reduced in strength. 
On 5 May the combat strength of its 32^ Regiment was down to 30 percent; 
two battalions of the 32^ were at 15 percent. The 2jth Tan\ Regiment never 
fought as a mobile unit again ; its six remaining medium tanks were converted 
to stationary artillery and pillboxes northwest of Shuri. Japanese artillery and 
shipping engineers also went into decline. The 44th Independent Mixed Brigade 
was still intact, however, for it had not been committed after it became apparent 
that the 24th Division would be unable to break through. 30 

American casualties during the enemy offensive were heavy. On 4 May 
335 were killed or wounded, excluding 352 casualties of the 1st Marine Division, 
which was not involved in the enemy ground attack. On 5 May the two divisions 
hit hardest by the counterattack and penetration, the 7th and 77th, suffered 379 
casualties. These losses are comparable to those previously incurred during the 
heaviest fighting in the Kakazu Ridge struggles and in the first few days of 
the general attack starting 19 April. 31 

Notwithstanding their heavy losses during the Japanese offensive, the Amer- 
icans, in general, suffered less from Cho's aggressive tactics than from Yahara's 
defensive methods. The 1st Marine Division, for example, which was barely 
touched by the Japanese offensive on 4 May, had more casualties on that date 
than the two other divisions of the Corps combined; most of the losses had been 
suffered in making an attack west of Machinato airfield against strong enemy 
defenses. Colonel Yahara had hoped to exact such losses for every small advance 
by the Americans across the entire line week after week. The Japanese counter- 
offensive of 4-5 May showed the superiority of Yahara's tactics to Cho's. Over- 
ambitiously conceived and ineptly executed, the offensive was a colossal blunder. 

The Americans Resume the Offensive 

The XXIV Corps now resumed its attack, which in several sectors of the 
front had hardly been interrupted by the Japanese offensive. Because the Jap- 

29 Interrog Yahara; Interrog Shimada; Tenth Army G-2 Weekly Summary, 15 Aug 45. 

30 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 326; 77th Div G-2 Rpt No. 51,16 May 45. 

31 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 324. 



THE JAPANESE COUNTER-OFFENSIVE 



303 



anese had used almost all their fresh reserves in the counterattack, General 
Buckner could feel confident of the launching sometime in May of a general 
attack on the Shuri defenses. On 7 May General Hodge ordered that preparatory 
to this coordinated Tenth Army attack the advance was to continue to the Asa- 
Dakeshi-Gaja line, to be seized by the evening of 8 May. Upon reaching this 
line, "a bare minimum," the attack was to continue in order to gain as much 
ground as possible for later offensive action. 32 

After the failure of their offensive, the Japanese turned all their energies 
toward waging a prolonged battle of attrition. Their losses did not impair 
immediately their defensive capacities; thus the XXIV Corps found no weak 
point in the Shuri defenses resulting from the ill-starred offensive. By throwing 
fresh troops into the attack of 4 May Ushijima had been able to maintain his 
strength all along the line. Nor was there any breakdown in his command and 
staff operation. Front-line units were reorganized without seeming loss of effec- 
tiveness; available reinforcements were carefully allotted to existing regiments; 
local counterattacks were timed for maximum effect. 33 

General Ushijima's chief task now was to keep sufficient combat troops at 
the front to man his Shuri defenses. It was apparent by 7 May that the strength 
of the remaining regular infantry was not great enough for this task. Conse- 
quently, Ushijima converted service units into infantry combat groups. By mix- 
ing service troops with the "regulars," he exacted from them their maximum 
combat effectiveness. "One man in ten will continue with his rear-echelon duties. 
The remaining nine men will devote themselves to antitank combat training," 
one order stated. 34 

The reorganization of the jid Regiment, 24th Division, was typical of the 
resourcefulness of the Japanese. The regimental headquarters received 5 men 
from the 24th Transport Regiment. The 1st Battalion kept its own surviving 
members and was allotted all the survivors of the 2d Battalion, 20 men from the 
yth Shipping Depot, 90 from the 24th Transport Regiment, and 9 from the 26th 
Sea Raiding Squadron. The 2d Battalion was totally reconstituted from the 29M 
Independent Infantry Battalion and other units. The 3d Battalion was reorgan- 
ized in a manner similar to that used with the 1st. It was by this process of piecing 
units together that the j2d Army was able to stay intact long after the original 

32 XXIV Corps FO No. 49, J May 45. 

33 Gugeler, 7th Div History, p. 269; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 43, 14 May 45. 

34 XXIV Corps G-2 Transl Batch No. 473, Sec. 1, 1 Jun 45. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



combat units had been virtually destroyed — a capability which at the time 
American intelligence officers found "baffling." 35 

After his offensive failed, the enemy formed, a line in which the relative 
position of the major units was to remain roughly the same until the end of the 
battle. On the east the 24th Division, reinforced by two independent battalions, 
held the line as far as Shuri, with its 89th Regiment on the east, its 22^ in the 
center, and its jid on the west. The remnants of the battered 62d Division were 
stretched from a point north of Shuri almost to the west coast, holding about 
one-third of the line. Along the Asa River estuary was a battalion of the 44th 
Independent Mixed Brigade.^ 

The Japanese husbanded their remaining heavy weapons, especially their 
artillery, as carefully as they meted out their manpower. On 6 May the Japanese 
$th Artillery Command directed its units to "revert to the [defensive] situation 
which held prior to the attack situation of 3 May." Once again the protection of 
individual pieces was a cardinal feature of enemy operations. Artillery units 
were ordered to "use ammunition with the utmost economy" and to "wait and 
fire for effect against vital targets." 37 

Marines Fight for Hill 60 

Turning east to seize the high ground that dominated the Asa River estuary, 
the 1st Marines on 6 May drove toward Hill 60, a small hump one-half mile 



southeast of Yafusu. |(Sce Map No. XXXIV. )| The mission was an extremely diffi 



cult one. Hill 60 was commanded by Japanese fire from Dakeshi Plateau and 
Ridge, Wana Ridge, and high ground south of the Asa River. Moreover, Nan 
Hill, a hillock 200 yards north of Hill 60 from which the attack was to be 
supported, was not yet wholly in Marine hands. In a classic demonstration of 
reverse-slope tactics, the Japanese had relinquished the crest and northern slope 
of Nan to the Americans but still held numerous caves on the southern slope 
as well as tunnels underground. Men of the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, had to 
ward off incessant forays on Nan during the night; some of them were 
bayoneted or knifed to death in their foxholes. 38 

The 2d Battalion attacked Hill 60 at 1000 on 6 May, supported by mortar, 
artillery, and naval fire. The Japanese dug in on the reverse slope of Nan 

34 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 335-37; XXIV Corps G— 2 Summary No. 9, 15 May 45. 
30 XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 9, 15 May 45; 96th Div G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 46, 17 May 45. 

37 XXIV Corps G-2 Transl Batch No. 502, Item i, 6 Jun 45. 

38 The account of operations of the Marines on Nan Hill and Hill 60 is taken from Stockman, 1st Mar 
Div History. 




ATTACKS ON HILL 60 by marines developed into a tan\, flame, and demolitions battle. 
Above, tan\-infantry team attacks northwest slope of Hill 60. Below, marines await result 
of a blasting charge, prepared to pic\ off any Japanese who might attempt escape. 




306 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



opened up on the attackers from their flank and rear. The Marine platoons 
quickly lost contact with one another and left a trail of casualties in their wake. 
Tanks met Japanese mortar and 47-mm. fire as soon as they moved onto open 
ground ; two were destroyed and left burning and another disabled, after receiv- 
ing a total of ten hits. One platoon reached the crest of Hill 60, only to come 
under a holocaust of grenades, satchel charges, white phosphorus shells, and knee 
mortar shells. Marines on Nan Hill were unable to move of! to support the attack 
because of the Japanese just below them. At 1227, after the marines on Hill 
60 had suffered thirty-five casualties without consolidating their position, the 
2d Battalion commander ordered them to withdraw. 

Next day a second attack on Hill 60 by the 2d Battalion was equally unsuc- 
cessful. Although four battalions of artillery, a fire support ship, and 81-mm. 
and 60-mm. mortars put concentrated fire on the slopes and crest of Hill 60, the 
marines who gained the top again came under concentrated enemy fire. The 
fighting was at such close range that it was impossible to keep enough grenades 
on the line, and the marines used rifle butts against Japanese who tried to 
storm their position. One wounded sergeant directed his squad until the 
moment he died. The troops lost their hold at one point, then fought their 
way to the top again. But the continuing Japanese fire from the reverse slope 
of Nan Hill was the decisive factor, and at 1700 the marines pulled back 
after losing eight killed and thirty-seven wounded. 

The 2d Battalion now redoubled its efforts to destroy enemy positions on 
Nan Hill. The marines found the task hazardous and often disheartening. 
Demolition charges placed in one cave sometimes blew out several other openings 
as well. Rushing for defilade during blasting, a marine might find himself in 
another part of a tunnel. In several instances caves were unsealed by Japanese 
digging out from the inside. But the work went steadily on. With relays of 
tanks and flame-thrower tanks, demolitions, and hundreds of gallons of napalm, 
the marines cleaned out Nan Hill by 9 May. 

With Nan completely "processed," marines attacked Hill 60 again on 9 May. 
While the 1st Batta 1 :on assaulted the northwest portion of Dakeshi Plateau, 
the 2d Battalion moved on Hill 60. Careful coordination of tanks, infantry, and 
supporting weapons brought quick results, and by the end of the day Hill 60 
was securely in Marine hands. 
XXIV Corps Advances on the Left 

After extensive patrolling during 5-6 May, the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, 
resumed its southward drive. The initial objective of Colonel Green, command- 



THE JAPANESE COUNTEROFFENSIVE 



ing officer, was Gaja Ridge, which had been won and lost on 2 May. On 7 May 
this ridge was occupied with astonishing ease. A platoon-sized patrol having 
operated freely along the tip of Gaja Ridge, infantrymen of the 3d Battalion 
started across the flats southwest of Unaha in deployed formation and were in 
place along the length of the ridge an hour later. The Japanese, who may well 
have been surprised by the speed of the attack, brought in a few artillery rounds 
but no small-arms fire. 39 

Further moves by the 184th into the western approaches of Conical Hill 
were more difficult. One patrol, cut off by machine-gun fire and shelled by mor- 
tars, had to fight its way back. A drive into Kibara stalled at the very edge of the 
town in the face of artillery and mortar fire. Mines in Kuhazu and Onaga pre- 
vented tanks from coming up in support. Infantry attacks on hills at the western 
terminus of the flatlands were more successful. William Hill fell on 7 May; the 
forward slope of Easy Hill, on the 8th. 

During this period the chief obstacle to the 7th Division's advance was a 
network of Japanese positions around Kochi Ridge and Zebra Hill just south 
of the town of Kochi. Previous attacks had demonstrated that the defenses here 
could not be overrun in a single attack but required a tedious, methodical destruc- 
tion of individual enemy soldiers and positions. Any large-scale attack by the 
17th Infantry, even though coordinated among battalions, was doomed to fail 
because of the combined fire power of enemy positions stretching from Shuri 
to Conical Hill — a volume of fire greater than a regiment could control. 

The struggle for the Kochi positions, which had started on 26 April, was 
resumed after the Japanese counteroffensive failed. By 6 May the 3d Battalion, 
17th Regiment, was fighting for Knob 2 on Kochi Ridge and was trying to 
burn the Japanese out of the east side by rolling 10-gallon cans of napalm, gaso- 
line, and motor oil over the top. On the same day two platoons of infantry seized 
a small portion of How Hill but, contrary to orders, retreated in the face of 
heavy fire from Kochi Ridge. At this point the 7th Division was under heavy 
pressure from XXIV Corps to push more aggressively. Accordingly, Brig. Gen. 
Joseph L. Ready, the assistant division commander, ordered Colonel Pachler's 
17th Infantry to attack Zebra Hill on the next day, 7 May. 

Tanks and infantry of the 3d Battalion moved out the next morning 
through Kochi. Their initial objective was an enemy strong point in the road 
cut between Zebra Hill and Kochi Ridge. This strong point formed the western 

89 The account of operations of the 7th Division from 5 to 10 May is taken from Gugeler, 7th Div 
History, pp. 264-85. 




AMERICAN ADVANCE DOWN THE CENTER of the line, yyth Division sector, was 
slow and costly. Every \nob of ground was fortified and fanatically defended. This photo- 
graph, ta\en from an artillery spotting plane 6 May, shows American tan\s burning out a 
strong point on the edge of a village. 



THE JAPANESE COUNTER-OFFENSIVE 



anchor of the Japanese line running toward Kibara, from which the Japanese 
22d Regiment was ordered on 7 May "to exact as heavy a toll of the enemy as 
possible." 40 Heavy artillery fire held up the infantry, but the tanks plunged 
through Kochi to the west end of the road cut, and the troops followed as soon 
as the artillery slackened off. The strong point was a cave in the north side of 
the cut. Japanese fire from Knob 4 and neighboring heights, combined with the 
steep walls of the narrow passage, made this position almost inaccessible. Tanks 
poured flame and shells into the road cut, but when they prepared to return for 
resupply the enemy on Knob 4 opened up on the troops. After exchanging fire 
with the Japanese until midafternoon, the 3d Battalion withdrew. 

Meanwhile the 1st Battalion again seized How Hill and gained more 
ground on Kochi. Rain began on the afternoon of the 7th and continued into 
the next day, but the tired men of the 17th Infantry did not give up the attack. 
The platoon of 2d Lt. William T. Coburn, who had joined Company G nine 
days before as a replacement, followed him to Knob 4 but was soon driven 
back by mortars and machine guns. Infuriated by the loss of two men killed 
and three wounded, Coburn and S/Sgt. George Hills returned to Knob 4 
and hurled grenades at an enemy mortar crew in the road cut below. Although 
a mortar shell had severely wounded Hills, he and Coburn killed the Japanese 
in the cut. 

By 9 May, when the 17th was relieved by the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, 
the hold of the Americans on Kochi was almost complete. A straight and firm 
regimental line ran from How Hill to the crest of Kochi Ridge and thence to 
the southern end of Kochi town. However, the cave in the road cut, as well as 
all of Zebra Hill, was still in enemy hands. On 9 May the battalion of the 
Japanese iid Regiment which had held this area for three days was relieved 
by other units and commended by the regimental commander for "inflicting 
heavy casualties on the enemy." a 
Inching Along in the Center 

In the very center of the island the 77th Division, after taking Maeda 
Escarpment, made step-by-step advances along Route 5 in its advance on Shuri. 
General Bruce used all weapons available, including air strikes, naval gunfire, 
and 8-inch howitzers, only to find the enemy still capable of putting up a fierce 
fight when the infantry and tanks moved up. The troops made use of seesaw 
tactics by which heavy weapons softened up a small area, permitting troops to 

40 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 47, 18 May 45. 

41 Ibid. 



3io 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



extend a salient from which they could support a similar effort in the adjoining 
sector. Nevertheless, progress was agonizingly slow. 

The 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on the right (west) of the 77th, 
met equally stout resistance. The enemy positions to the immediate front of 
this regiment were organized around an area of rough ground known later 
as Awacha Pocket, northeast of Dakeshi and south of the town of Awacha. 
Here again the close teamwork of tanks and infantry, supported by heavy 
weapons, provided the only means of advance. Encircling this pocket required 
a week and was not finally accomplished until 11 May. By that time the marines 
had uncovered even more formidable positions to the south. 

By 11 May XXIV Corps, though still far from the minimum line set by 
General Hodge, had eliminated many Japanese positions in preparation for 
the full-scale attack that was to follow. The week of 3-10 May had been one 
of general consolidation of the line that ran from Ouki on the east coast to 
Asa-Kawa on the west. At the expense of more than 20,000 casualties, including 
nonbattle, 42 the American forces on the Shuri line had extended their line at 
Maeda, Kochi, and Awacha, thus making their lines of communication more 
secure and gaining more favorable terrain for the Tenth Army attack scheduled 
for 11 May. 

42 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 41, 11 May 45. The figure cited in the text is only approximate 
because 1st Marine Division losses during 7—10 May were estimated on the basis of previous losses during 
30 April-6 May, when the division was under XXIV Corps. 



CHAPTER XIII 



The May Attack on the 
Shuri Defenses 

Although by 10 May the American troops were still short of the line set by 
Tenth Army as the point of departure for a general offensive, there was no time 
to spare in launching this offensive. Admiral Turner was somewhat impatient 
because of the heavy naval losses, particularly in picket ships. On 4 May Brig. Gen. 
Elwyn Post, Tenth Army Chief of Staff, had declared that the situation was seri- 
ous and that immediate action was imperative. 1 After the failure of the Japanese 
offensive, General Buckner felt that the moment was opportune because the 
enemy had used almost all his fresh reserves in the counterattack; both his divi- 
sions were in the front lines and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade also had 
been partly committed. 2 Accordingly, General Buckner on 9 May ordered a 
coordinated Tenth Army attack for the nth. 

With both corps now on the line, Tenth Army on 7 May assumed direct 
control of operations on the southern front for the first time. By n May the 
III Amphibious Corps in the north (consisting of the 6th Marine Division and 
Corps troops) had been relieved by the 27th Division and had moved into posi- 
tion on the right of the southern front. The Corps assumed control again of the 
1st Marine Division, which had been attached to XXIV Corps since the latter 
part of April. The XXIV Corps' zone of action now extended eastward from the 
1st Marine Division boundary to Yonabaru. From west to east, the 6th Marine 
Division, the 1st Marine Division, the 77th, and the 96th occupied successive 
positions on the line. The 7th Division was in XXIV Corps reserve, enjoying a 
period of rest and rehabilitation. 

The plan of attack called for Tenth Army to renew the assault on the Shuri 
defenses with its two corps abreast, III Amphibious Corps on the right, XXIV 
Corps on the left. The initial scheme of maneuver was an envelopment of Shuri 
by the Marine divisions on the west and the Army divisions on the east, while a 

1 Notes on Tenth Army staff meeting, ,4 May 45, in Okinawa Diary kept by Stevens and Burns, entry 
4 May 45. 

2 Tenth Army G-3 Jnl, outgoing Msg No. 7, 3 May 45; Opns Ord 7-45, 5 May 45; XXIV Corps FO 
No. 50, 9 May 45; interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 10 May 45. 



312 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



strong holding attack was maintained in the center. 3 The Tenth Army staff 
believed that the Japanese positions were weaker on the right and that the fresh 
Marine divisions had a chance for a quick break-through on that flank. Moreover, 
the terrain was more favorable along the western coast. The wide flanking 
maneuver around Shuri that later developed was not projected in the original 
plans. General Buckner explained on 10 May that there would be nothing spec- 
tacular. He added : 

It will be a continuation of the type of attack we have been employing to date. Where 
we cannot take strong points we will pinch them off and leave them for the reserves to 
reduce. We have ample firepower and we also have enough fresh troops so that we can 
always have one division resting. 4 

The initial order for the attack provided for a 30-minute general prepara- 
tion by the artillery just before the ground attack. This provision was revoked 
two days later in favor of pinpointing of targets. The new order stated that "the 
maximum practicable number of known enemy guns and strong points will be 
destroyed or neutralized" prior to the infantry assault. This change resulted, 
in all probability, from recognition of the failure of the mass preparation for the 
attack of 19 April. The elaborate system of Japanese underground positions 
across the entire front made it necessary to use precision fire, hitting each cave 
entrance. 5 

In preparation for a renewed American attack the Japanese bolstered their 
Shuri defenses. Ready at last to commit almost all his reserves to action, General 
Ushijima ordered that "the Army will immediately move its main strength 
into the Shuri area." He established a central defense zone with his front lines 
running from a point north of Asato on the west coast, through Wana and the 
high ground near Ishimmi, to the east coast just north of Conical Hill. Aware 
of the entrance of the 6th Marine Division on the west, he shifted his forces 

3 Tenth Army Opns Ord 8-45, 7 May 45; interv 1st I & H Off with Brig Gen Walter A. Dumas, 
ACofS, G-3, Tenth Army, 9 Jul 45. There is still some question as to the precise scheme of maneuver. 
The Tenth Ar.my operation plan overlay, which according to the text of the plan was to show the scheme 
of maneuver more precisely than the order itself, indicated a very close envelopment of Shuri by the two 
divisions immediately north of the Japanese headquarters city. The XXIV Corps field order indicated 
pressure across the line by both its divisions rather than major effort near the center of the Army line. 
Despite the scheme of maneuver outlined on the Tenth Army overlay, it seems that the actual plan was 
for uniform pressure across the line which would crack the Japanese defenses at some point and be im- 
mediately exploited wherever the particular break might come. 

4 Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 10 May 45. 

B Change No. 1 , to Tenth Army Opns Ord 8-45, 9 May 45 ; interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Brig 
Gen Josef R. Sheetz, CG XXIV Corps Arty, 23 Jun 45. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



313 



for an iron defense on both his flanks. General Ushijima ordered roads and 
bridges to be destroyed east of Naha. His continued fear of an attack behind 
Japanese lines by American parachute troops, however, restrained him from 
bringing all available forces up to the front. 6 

The attack launched on 11 May, although coordinated initially along the 
entire front, soon broke down into a series of intense battles for particular 
points with the western, central, and eastern sectors presenting relatively dis- 
tinct situations. At many places the American efforts were merely an intensifi- 
cation of assaults that had begun on previous days. For ten days of continuous 
fighting, from Sugar Loaf on the west coast to Conical Hill on the east, the 
Japanese, except for local and relatively minor retreats, held tenaciously to 
their long-prepared positions. Finally, on 21 May, after some of the bitterest 
action of the battle of Okinawa, the American forces were to seize the eastern 
slope of Conical Hill, close to the east coast, and thereby to make an opening 
in the enemy lines which permitted an attempt at envelopment. 



The Attack, in the West 

On 8 May the 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, relieved the 7th Marines, 
rst Marine Division, on the bluffs north of the Asa River. The enemy held posi- 
tions south of the Asa, which was too deep to ford at the mouth and which had 
a bottom too soft to support any type of vehicle. The enemy-held ground rose 
gently to the horizon 2,000 yards away. To the west barren coral ridges formed 
a barrier to the sea; to the south a long clay ridge dominated the road to Naha; 
to the southeast a group of low grassy hills, set close together, commanded the 
ground between the Asa River basin and the Asato River corridor. On the east 
were the rough folds of Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge, and Wana Draw, positions 



toward which the 1st Marine Division was driving. 7 |(See Map No. XXXV.) 

Maj. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., commander of the 6th Marine Division, 
had warned his troops that the battle in southern Okinawa would be different 
from anything they had previously encountered in the Pacific. In a training order 
read twice by every platoon leader to his men, he described the enemy's intel- 

6 Tenth Army Transl No. 294, 10 Jul 45: 32.3. Army Ord No. A 10, 11 May 45; Transl No. 176, 21 
Jun 45: j2(l Army Ord No. A 23, 14 May 45; Transl No. 300, 10 Jul 45: j2d Army Ord No. A 19, 12 May 
45; Interrog Shimada. 

' The account of operations of the 6th Marine Division is taken from Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, 
Ch. II, supplemented and corrected by III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period and 6th Mar Div 
Actn Rpt, a detailed and well-balanced narrative. 



314 OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 

ligent use of artillery, his ample supplies, his defensive line "which cannot be 
breached by simple frontal attack without heavy losses," and his willingness to 
counterattack by every available means. General Shepherd urged his command- 
ers and troops to take advantage of cover and camouflage, to use maneuver in 
outflanking the Japanese rather than to try to "outslug" them, and to keep 
driving. "Your enemy can't think as fast as you can and he is no match for a 
determined aggressive Marine who has confidence in himself and his weapon." 8 

6th Marine Division Advances in the West 

The 226. Marines began crossing the Asa estuary in the early hours of 10 May 
over a footbridge completed during the night. An enemy suicide squad destroyed 
the bridge with satchel charges after the first three companies had crossed, but 
other marines reached the south bank by wading. During the morning the troops 
advanced into the town of Asa against steadily increasing resistance. Movement 
west of the town was difficult in the confusion caused by heavy fog and smoke. 
Direct fire from self-propelled 105-mm. howitzers and LVT's supported the 
attack. Despite heavy enemy artillery fire and strong local counterattacks on the 
infantry, the 226 Marines had established by dark a "beachhead" 350 yards deep 
and almost a mile wide. |(See Map No. XXXIVT] 



The Drive Along the Coast 

During the night of 10-11 May the 6th Marine Division engineers, working 
under fire, laid across the Asa a Bailey bridge which enabled tanks and other 
heavy weapons to support the attack. The marines advanced under almost con- 
tinual artillery fire delivered from the western face of Shuri Heights, where the 
enemy had excellent observation of the coastal area. Japanese infantry opposition 
was well coordinated with this fire. A company commander of the 1st Battalion, 
22d Marines, led a squad up to the summit of a strongly defended hill 800 yards 
south of Asa, but all his troops were killed or wounded in the assault except the 
flame-thrower man. A concentration from the main battery of a fire support ship 
broke loose great blocks of coral from the top of the hill and rolled them down 
the face, but without much damage to Japanese positions. An infantry charge 
by Company C, closely supported by tanks, finally won the hill. Although Com- 
pany C was now reduced to eighty men, the marines clung to the hill in the face 
of counterattacks. 

On the regimental right (west) the 3d Battalion seized a cliff on the coast 
north of the town of Amike by a tank-infantry-flame-thrower assault late in 



6th Mar Div Tng Ord No. 23-45, 6 May 45, cited in Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, Ch. II, pp. 5-7. 




WEST FLANK ZONE, where the 22d Marines, 6th Division, crossed Asa River toward 
Naha. (Photo ta\en 5 May 1945-) 




SUGAR LOAF AND HORSESHOE HILLS, photographed after the battle had moved on 
into Machishi and almost to Naha. Between Sugar Loaf and the hilloct^ in foreground, 
where Marine attac\ centered, 10 \noc\ed-out American armored vehicles can be seen. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



317 



the afternoon. This advance placed the Marines on the northern outskirts of 
Amike overlooking the devastated city of Naha, capital of the Ryukyus. Had 
this city, the largest in the islands, been the objective of Tenth Army the 6th 
Marine Division would have held an excellent position from which to capture 
it. Since Naha was not their objective, however, the marines who reached the 
north bank of the Asato near its mouth simply consolidated their position during 
the next two weeks, sending patrols into Naha, while the marines to the east 
continued to press in on the flank of Shuri. 

Progress of the other troops of the 226. Marines during 12 and 13 May was 
slow. The 1 st and 2d Battalions were now moving into the rough ground a mile 
east of Amike — -ground which the Japanese had been ordered to hold as a key 
point in the defense of Shuri. This area was occupied by the 15th Independent 
Mixed Regiment, 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, supported by the yth Inde- 
pendent Antitan\ Battalion, a Navy mortar company, and an independent 
battalion of approximately 700 men formed from a Sea Raiding Base Battalion. 
These forces were well supplied with light mortars, machine guns, and light 
arms. As the battle developed, reinforcements streamed in from the rest of the 
44th Brigade? 

Closing In on Sugar Loaf, 12-13 May 

The first encounter of the Marines with the Japanese guarding Sugar 
Loaf came on 12 May, almost inadvertently. Company G, 22d Marines, 
advanced southeast with eleven tanks toward the Asato River. Heading 
directly toward Sugar Loaf, which was known to be a strong point, the 
infantry and tanks met increasing rifle fire but pushed ahead. When the 
Marines reached Sugar Loaf, a number of Japanese soldiers fled from their 
positions. It was not clear whether this action was a ruse or resulted from panic 
at the sudden arrival of the Americans. Four men on the crest of Sugar Loaf 
and the company commander frantically radioed battalion for reinforcements. 
Because of his many casualties, the commander was ordered to withdraw. 
As the Americans withdrew, the enemy opened up with heavy fire. Three tanks 
were quickly knocked out. Slowly the troops pulled back, suffering more cas- 
ualties in the process. By evening Company G's total strength was down to 
seventy-five. 

The 6th Marine Division now planned an attack in force on the Sugar 
Loaf area. The hills there were so small that they did not show up on the 



Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4, 1 Aug 45 : 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, p. 4. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



standard military map with its io-meter contour interval. Sugar Loaf and the 
other hills supporting it were formed in such a way, however, as to offer 
exceptionally advantageous positions to the enemy. The crest, running generally 
east-west, curved back slightly at each end, affording the Japanese weapons on 
the reverse slope excellent protection from American flanking fire as well as from 
frontal attack. Supporting Sugar Loaf on its right rear was Crescent Hill, also 
known as Half Moon Hill; on its left rear was the Horseshoe, a long curved 
ridge harboring many mortar positions. These three hills supported one another, 
and any attack on Sugar Loaf would bring fire from the others. The Japanese 
here had excellent fields of fire to the northwest, obstructed only slightly by 
several tiny humps of ground which had their own reverse-slope defenses. 
Japanese on Shuri Heights commanded most of the ground. 10 

On the morning of 13 May the 3d Battalion, 29th Marines, entered the 
battle east of the 226 Marines. The day was spent in slow costly moves in an 
effort to seize the high ground overlooking the upper reaches of the Asato. The 
Marines made advances of several hundred yards on the division left, but resist- 
ance steadily increased. By the evening of 13 May the 6th Marine Division had 
committed the 29th Regiment for a renewed attack. Supporting aircraft made 
many sorties during 13 May against artillery positions, buildings, and storage 
areas, using rockets and hundreds of 100- and 500-pound bombs. One battleship, 
four cruisers, and three destroyers also supported the attack. This heavy fire 
power was available to the ground troops throughout the attacks. 

The enemy's skillful use of his remaining artillery greatly handicapped the 
Marine advance from the Asa to the Asato. Artillery of the 44th Brigade con- 
sisted of eight 100-mm. howitzers and four mountain guns, and these were sup- 
plemented from time to time by artillery and heavy mortars of adjacent units. 
Having excellent observation, the Japanese used their weapons singly or in 
pairs with great precision against marines and tanks. On one occasion a shell 
landed squarely amid several men at an observation point; the commander of 
the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, 3 radio men, and 2 tank officers were killed, and 
3 company commanders were wounded. 
"Banzai Attach^' on Sugar Loaf, 14-15 May 

The plan for 14 May called for the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, commanded 
by Lt. Col. Horatio C. Woodhouse, to seize high ground west and north of 

10 Personal obsn of Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army historian, and Maj Roy Appleman, XXIV Corps 
historian. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



319 



Sugar Loaf, and from this ground to launch an assault against Sugar Loaf. 
(See Map No. XXXVL)| The marines were able to seize the forward slopes of the 
protecting hills north of Sugar Loaf, but intense fire met them whenever they 
tried to move around or over these hills. Of fifty men who made an attempt to 
•advance, only ten returned, and most of the morning was spent in evacuating 
casualties on amtracks. Nevertheless, the marines launched a successful attack 
on Queen Hill which protected Sugar Loaf to the north. The first attack on 
Sugar Loaf stalled under heavy fire. One platoon, consolidated from the rem- 
nants of two platoons, made another attempt at dusk. By 2000 the platoon leader 
was dead and most of the platoon had been killed or wounded as a result of 
intense mortar fire, but the survivors clung to the slope. The executive 
officer of the 2d Battalion then rallied the available members of Company G, 
22d Marines, numbering twenty, and twenty-six marines from supply elements 
for an attempt to reinforce the survivors. He and his men moved across the little 
valley and advanced up the slopes of Sugar Loaf. About forty feet up the hill 
they set up two machine guns with fire teams to support each. Twenty replace- 
ments arrived from the shore party with two officers who had never seen com- 
bat. Grenades and knee mortar shells were falling among the troops so heavily 
that the executive officer moved his force to the crest of the hill. "The only way," 
he declared, "we can take the top of this hill is to make a Jap banzai charge 
ourselves." 

The small Marine force on Sugar Loaf was now so close to the reverse slope 
that the enemy could not effectively throw grenades, but the mortar shelling 
increased. The executive officer, crouching in his foxhole, was killed instantly 
when a fragment hit him in the neck. One of the platoon leaders on the hill was 
also killed, and another was wounded as he was bringing up reinforcements. 
Four or five men grouped together for a moment froze as a shell dropped among 
them. 

Mortar fire and infiltration steadily cut down the small force, until at dawn 
on 15 May the position on Sugar Loaf was held by only one officer and nineteen 
exhausted men. Daylight made the situation even more precarious, for now the 
enemy entrenched on the Horseshoe and on Crescent Hill could put accurate 
fire on the Americans. Orders arrived from Battalion at 1000 stating that relief 
was on the way. The marines had already given some ground; the enemy was 
now massing fire on the crest and Japanese infantrymen were creeping up the 
hill from their caves on the reverse slope. The relief was exceptionally difficult 
because of the heavy fire. A platoon of Company D, 29th Marines, attempting to 



320 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



reach the crest, quickly discovered that an effective relief would require an 
attack against the Japanese who were trying to retake the crest of the hill. The 
platoon leader, ist Lt. George Murphy, ordered an assault with fixed bayonets. 
The marines reached the top and immediately became involved in a grenade 
battle with the enemy. Their supply of 350 grenades was soon exhausted. Lieu- 
tenant Murphy asked his company commander, Capt. Howard L. Mabie, for 
permission to withdraw, but Captain Mabie ordered him to hold the hill at all 
costs. By now the whole forward slope of Sugar Loaf was alive with gray eddies 
of smoke from mortar blasts, and Murphy ordered a withdrawal on his own 
initiative. Covering the men as they pulled back down the slope, Murphy was 
killed by a fragment when he paused to help a wounded marine. 

Captain Mabie advanced his company to protect the survivors as they 
withdrew. He at the same time notified Colonel Woodhouse: "Request permis- 
sion to withdraw. Irish George Murphy has been hit. Has 1 1 men left in platoon 
of original 60." 

Two minutes later Colonel Woodhouse replied: "You must hold." 

In five minutes the answer came from Mabie: "Platoon has withdrawn. 
Position was untenable. Could not evacuate wounded. Believe Japs now hold 
ridge." 

By now the Japanese were shelling the area around Sugar Loaf and were 
attacking the left sector of the 6th Marine Division in at least battalion strength. 
By midmorning the enemy effort had spread over a 900-yard front. As a result 
of the bitter fighting for Sugar Loaf and in front of Crescent Hill the entire 
left sector of the division was weak. The 2d Battalion gave up the ground 
immediately north of Sugar Loaf, but the enemy did not press through with 
his advantage. By 13 15 his attack had lost momentum. Later in the day the 2d 
Battalion, 22d Marines, was withdrawn from the action; it had suffered 400 
casualties during the preceding three days. 
Attacks on Sugar Loaf Continue, 16-ij May 

Another attack, more heavily supported, was made on 16 May, but this was 
also a failure. (See Map No. XXXVII.) At 0800 five companies on a 1,000-yard front 
advanced on the Sugar Loaf-Crescent Hill area. Affairs went badly from the 
beginning. Support planes were half an hour late, delaying the attack, and 
several tanks lost their way in the approach. Two platoons reached the crest 
of Sugar Loaf after moving up the steep north slope under mortar, grenade, 
and automatic weapons fire. Immediately the difficulties of the previous days 
presented themselves again. The Japanese on the reverse slope could not be 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



321 



dislodged by mortar or artillery fire; tanks were unable to creep around the 
west slope of Sugar Loaf because of antitank fire from several directions ; and 
infantrymen accompanying the tanks were helpless under that fire. The inte- 
gration of the Japanese position was fully evident; marines on Sugar Loaf 
could not advance over the crest because of fire from adjacent hills; marines 
fighting for those hills were held up by fire from Sugar Loaf. Maneuver was 
impossible. After savage close-in fighting around the crest of Sugar Loaf, the 
marines withdrew to their positions of the previous night. 

The veterans of the 6th Marine Division who fought in this action later 
called 16 May their bitterest day of fighting during the Okinawa campaign. 
Two regiments had attacked with all their available strength and had failed. 
Intelligence officers reported that the Sugar Loaf defenses had been greatly 
strengthened in the previous twenty-four hours. Marine casualties continued 
to be heavy. 

The plan for 17 May called for a flanking attack on Sugar Loaf from the 
east. The 1st and 3d Battalions, 29th Marines, were to assault Crescent Hill, then 
to hold there and support the 2d Battalion, 29th Marines, in an attempt to seize 
Sugar Loaf. A heavy bombardment by 16-inch guns, howitzers, and planes carry- 
ing 1,000-pound bombs preceded the attack. At 0830 elements of the 1st and 
3d Battalions attacked the western end of Crescent Hill. Tank-infantry teams sup- 
ported by artillery destroyed many fortified positions. As this advance uncovered 
the east side of Sugar Loaf, Company E of the 2d Battalion began a flanking 
attack around the left of that key terrain feature. 

While the attack on Crescent Hill was still going on, elements of the 2d 
Battalion moved toward Sugar Loaf. The first effort was a wide movement 
attempting to employ the railroad cut, but this proved unsuccessful because of 
fire received from the left. An attempt at a close flanking movement failed 
because of the precipitous slopes. Then, using the northeast slopes of the hill, 
two platoons of Company E gained the top. On reaching the crest the attacking 
force was struck by a heavy enemy charge which drove them back off the hilltop. 
A platoon of Company F also tried to advance along the ridge toward the west, 
but the leader was killed and the platoon withdrew under heavy mortar fire. 
Three times more Company E drove to the hilltop. Twice they were thrown 
back after hand-to-hand fighting. The third time the marines beat off the Jap- 
anese, but in doing so they exhausted their ammunition. The company was 
forced to withdraw, relinquishing the position for which 160 marines had been 
killed or wounded during the day. 



322 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Capture of Sugar Loaf, 18-ig May 

Throughout the four seemingly fruitless days of battle for the Sugar Loaf 
area the tedious work of destroying Japanese positions had been proceeding 
everywhere in the area. Progress in this work steadily reduced the amount of fire 
which the Japanese could place on Sugar Loaf. On 18 May a skillful, coordinated 
attack by Company D, 29th Marines, took advantage of the progress of the past 
days and succeeded in reducing Sugar Loaf. |(See Map No. XXXV111.) 

Captain Mabie, commanding Company D, maneuvered his company onto 
the edge of the low ground north of Sugar Loaf on the morning of the 18th. 
Artillery and mortars placed a heavy preparation on the objectives. Immediately 
afterward three tanks moved around the eastern slope of Sugar Loaf and fired 
into the reverse slope as the Japanese swarmed out of their caves to repel an 
expected attack. The tanks retired, shooting down two satchel teams that dashed 
out of caves. Then Captain Mabie opened up with a rocket barrage; trucks carry- 
ing rocket racks came over a saddle, loosed their missiles, and raced away to 
escape artillery fire. Field pieces opened up again as the troops moved forward. 

One platoon climbed the west nose, peeling off fire teams to keep a continu- 
ous line from the base of the hill. Another platoon drove directly up the north- 
eastern slope. The two parties reached the summit at about the same time, then 
moved on to destroy positions on the reverse slope. The position was secure by 
0946. A few minutes later Captain Mabie received word to "send up the PX 
supplies." The rest of Company D soon followed to the crest. By noon the 
wounded had been evacuated and a line firmly established. Meanwhile Com- 
pany F seized part of the Horseshoe, thereby decreasing fire from that point 
and enabling positions to be consolidated on the north slopes of Crescent Hill. 

That night 60-mm. mortars of three companies on and behind Sugar Loaf 
shot up flares every two minutes to illuminate the area. At 2300 the marines 
heard yelling and jabbering southwest of Sugar Loaf, and enemy mortar fire 
increased. At 0230 the full force of a Japanese attack hit the marines on Horse- 
shoe. Enemy troops along the road cut west of Sugar Loaf set up a machine 
gun that could enfilade the Marine lines. Marine machine gunners knocked 
out this gun, but the Japanese manned others. Two platoons pulled back to the 
forward (north) slope of Sugar Loaf, and fire teams, using their own reverse- 
slope tactics, killed thirty-three Japanese as small groups attempted to reoccupy 
the hill. The counterattack was stopped by dawn. 

On the next day, 19 May, the 4th Marines relieved the exhausted 29th 
Marines. During the 10-day period up to and including the capture of Sugar 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



3 2 3 



Loaf the 6th Marine Division had lost 2,662 killed or wounded; there were 
also 1,289 cases of combat fatigue. In the 22d and 29th Marines three battalion 
commanders and eleven company commanders had been killed or wounded. 
On 20 May the 4th Marines gained more of the Horseshoe but were still unable 
to reach the crest of Crescent Hill. An attack by an enemy force estimated as of 
battalion strength was repulsed by the combined fire of six artillery battalions 
and infantry weapons. Although forced to commit part of its regimental reserve, 
the 4th Marines broke up the attack and inflicted on the enemy more than 200 
casualties. 

On 21 May the 4th Marines continued the attack toward the Asato River 
line. Troops advanced 250 yards into the Horseshoe but were unable to complete 
the seizure of Crescent Hill because of intense enemy artillery and mortar 
fire. Much of this fire came from Shuri Heights. The next moves of the 6th 
Marine Division would depend on the outcome of the fierce struggle for those 
heights that was still being waged by the 1st Marine Division. 

Attack^ of the 1st Marine Division on Shuri Heights 

While the 6th Marine Division was advancing slowly toward the Asato 
River from 11 to 20 May, the 1st Marine Division was making vigorous efforts 
to seize Shuri Heights. The key Japanese positions in this area were built into 
Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge, Wana Draw, and the towns of Dakeshi and 
Wana, all protecting Shuri on the northwest. Although other ground around 
Shuri was higher and even more precipitous, the term "Shuri Heights" was 
used by III Amphibious Corps to denote the Japanese positions in this area 
which afforded a view of almost the entire Marine front. "(See Map No. XXXV. )| 



The ridges, draws, and ruins of Shuri Heights gave the enemy a perfect 
combination for his type of defensive warfare. Dakeshi Ridge, which the 
marines had reached by 10 May, had typical reverse-slope defenses supported 
by many positions in the town of Dakeshi. The Japanese had exploited this 
situation as fully as they had capitalized on the relationship of the town and 
ridge of Kakazu and on that of the town of Maeda and Urasoe-Mura Escarp- 
ment. Another ridge, Wana, lay directly south of the town of Dakeshi. West 
of these positions steep declivities of from 50 to 100 yards protected the Japanese 
against a flank attack from their left. South of Wana Ridge was Wana Draw, 
which began as a narrow, rocky defile just north of Shuri and widened out 
broadly to the west, giving its defenders a full view of the ground below. 11 

11 Personal Obsn of Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army historian. 




CRESCENT HILL held out until 21 May. Troops of the 4th Marines, 6th Division, 
crossing open ground to Crescent were under constant observation and fire from Japanese 
positions on Shuri Heights to the east. 




FIGHTING AT SUGAR LOAF cost the Americans many armored vehicles. They are 
shown wrecked and abandoned in this photo ta\en from a Japanese gun position after fall 
of Sugar Loaf 18 May. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



These positions in the Dakeshi-Wana area were considered by General 
Ushijima a vital sector of the Shuri perimeter, which his forces were to "hold 
without fail." The 6id Division, which by n May had seen continuous action 
for five weeks, still held this area. The entire nth Independent Infantry Bat- 
talion and most of the 21st and 23d Battalions had been destroyed. Only 600 
troops remained of the original division. General Ushijima transferred the sur- 
vivors of the 64th Brigade to the 63d Brigade and reconstructed the latter by 
assigning to it airfield construction troops, a machine cannon unit, and a suicide 
boat group, bringing the 63d up to a strength of 6,700. He bolstered the Dakeshi 
sector with elements of the 44th Brigade, whom he ordered to defend the ridge 
to the last man. 12 

Capture of Dakeshi Ridge, 10-13 May 

In the Tenth Army attack of 11 May the part played by the 7th Marines, 
1st Marine Division, represented an intensification of the attack on Dakeshi 
Ridge begun on the previous day. The regimental attack of 10 May had been 
abortive. The enemy had put intense mortar and machine-gun fire on the attack- 
ing marines from his positions on and behind the long ridge. By nightfall the 
7th Marines had been forced back to its original lines. 13 

The plan for 1 1 May was designed to take advantage of the natural forma- 
tion of Dakeshi Ridge, which was shaped roughly like a horseshoe, with the 
prongs extending north along the boundaries of the 7th regimental sector. The 
bowl between the ends of the ridge was impassable because of enemy fire; the 
routes of attack were along the extensions of the ridge. The 2d Battalion attacked 
the western end of the ridge on the regimental right, while the 1st Battalion 
attacked on the left. Both battalions had to move over rough ground. 

Using tank-infantry teams, the 1st Battalion slowly pushed up the eastern 
slope of Dakeshi under heavy enemy fire and reached the ridge line during the 
afternoon. The 2d Battalion also managed to reach the crest of the ridge in its 
sector but immediately came under intense fire from Wana Ridge directly to 
the south. It was impossible to continue the attack ; a marine could hardly raise 
his head without receiving fire. Evacuating casualties was extremely difficult. 
When one marine was set on fire by a Japanese flame thrower, several of his 
comrades tried to cross open ground to put out the flames, but each one was 

12 Tenth Army Transl No. 176, 21 Jun 45: j2d Army Ord No. A 23, 14 May 45; PW Interrog Summary 
No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 55, 26 May 45. 

13 The account of operations of the 1st Marine Division is based on Stockman, 1st Mar. Div History, 
and III Amph Corps G— 3 Periodic Rpts for the period. 



326 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



wounded in the attempt. The Americans were forced back a short distance 
but held most of their gains. The attacking company had lost its commander 
and every squad leader in the two assault platoons. 

The 7th Marines extended its hold on Dakeshi during 12 May. The fight- 
ing in the 1st Battalion sector revolved around a pinnacle on the east end of 
Dakeshi Ridge. As usual, the enemy occupied the reverse slope in such favorable 
positions that flank or frontal assault attacks were virtually impossible. There 
was room enough only for a platoon to maneuver. Well supplied with grenades, 
four marines tried to occupy the pinnacle by stealth, but the attempt failed. 
After a 60-mm. mortar concentration, twelve marines assaulted the position 
only to find the enemy waiting unscathed; they pulled back under a hand- 
grenade barrage. Then demolitions men put 400 pounds of charges below the 
position. The blasting was an exciting spectacle to watch but ineffective. 

There was still another trick in the Marine repertory, and this one worked. 
The platoon secured a medium tank and two flame-thrower tanks and directed 
them through the saddle on the right (west) of the pinnacle to a point where 
they could operate against the reverse slope. While the tank put 75-mm. shells 
and machine-gun fire into the enemy positions, the flame thrower sprayed fire 
over the whole slope. Immediately afterward the infantry assaulted the pinnacle 
and won it without much difficulty. 

By nightfall the 7th Marines held firmly most of Dakeshi Ridge. Shortly 
before midnight the Japanese made a counterattack against the 2d Battalion on 
the ridge. This was the third counterattack against this regiment in as many 
nights. The Americans killed about forty of a force estimated as of company 
strength, including two Japanese officers with excellent maps of the area. Tank- 
infantry teams secured the rest of Dakeshi Ridge on the 13th. 

A savage fight developed on 13 May when the 2d Battalion tried to move 
through the town of Dakeshi in preparation for an assault on Wana Ridge. 
Dakeshi was a network of tunnels, shafts, and caves — ideal for a large defending 
force. Snipers were among ruins, behind walls, and in cisterns and wells. The 
forward platoon was caught in the open by mortar and automatic fire from 
the front and both flanks. The radio broke down. Tanks and artillery supported 
the men and tried to screen them with smoke, but the Japanese crawled forward 
through the smoke and grenaded the platoon. One marine, wounded so badly 
that he begged to be shot, was being helped by two comrades when a grenade 
exploded among them, killing all three. The platoon pulled back after thirty- 
two of its original forty-nine had been killed or wounded. 




DAKESHI RIDGE was attached by these tan\-injantry teams of the jth Marines, ist Divi- 
sion, in attempting to reach the eastern slope. Below , jth Marine troops closing in on a 
Japanese-held cave in Daheshi Ridge hug the ground as an enemy mortar shell bursts on 
crest. Cave is in the depression to right of shell burst. 




328 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



On 14 May the 1st Battalion relieved the 2d Battalion, which had been in 
the attack for four days. On the next day the 1st Battalion consolidated ground 
already taken, and artillery, naval guns, and air strikes were directed against 
Japanese defenses on Shuri Heights. Wana Ridge was the next objective of the 
1st Marine Division elements on the high ground. Operations against the ridge 
were to be coordinated with the fighting around Wana Draw. 

The 1st Marines Advances on the Right 

While the 7th Marines fought for Dakeshi Ridge during 10-13 May, the 
1st Marines moved south along the rolling ground below Shuri Heights. After 
capturing Hill 60 on 9 May, the 1st Marines found its zone of action sloping 
downward and exposed to enemy observation and fire from Shuri Heights and 
from Hill 55, which was just below Wana Draw. Immediately before the regi- 
ment lay the low basin drained by the Asa River. On the marines' right the 
railroad from Naha ran along an embankment. 

When the 1st Marines attempted to push past the western nose of Dakeshi 
Ridge on 10 and 11 May, fire from Shuri Heights was so severe that the advance 
stalled. Consequently the attack was reoriented, and the marines, giving Dakeshi 
Ridge a wide berth, advanced west of the railroad. Here the 1st Marines made 
good progress in coordination with the 6th Marine Division. The farther the 
troops advanced on the right, however, the greater was the difficulty in supplying 
the forward elements; all routes of approach were under fire. Japanese artillery 
shelled the area between Dakeshi Ridge and the railroad. On 12 May it was 
necessary to use air drops, but these were only partially successful because 
some of the parachutes drifted into areas under enemy fire. 

The attack of the 1st Marines on 13 May was coordinated with the moves 
of the 7th Marines on Dakeshi Ridge. Artillery, naval guns, mortars, and 
37-mm. guns pounded the areas in front of the marines. By noon the 3d Battalion 
was near Hill 55. This hill, forming part of the south wall of Wana Draw, pre- 
sented to the marines a steep incline. Its defenses were well integrated with those 
of Wana Ridge and Draw. One company, supported by tanks, assaulted Hill 55 
during the afternoon but was hit by heavy fire from the heights. Japanese 
machine guns, mortars, and 20-mm. automatic guns forced the company to 
withdraw under a smoke screen. 

The plan for 14 May was an attack on Wana Ridge in coordination with 
the 7th Marines. Wana Ridge formed the northern wall of Wana Draw. The 
ridge, a long coral spine running out of the northern part of Shuri, was lined 
on both sides with fortified tombs, many of which looked out on the low ground 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



below. The ist Marines was a part of the way up the ridge by noon of the 14th, 
but was unable to make contact with the 7th Marines. The ridge seemed to be 
swarming with Japanese. Before dusk the enemy launched a counterattack 
which for a time threatened to cut off the forward company. The marines pulled 
back to lower ground under cover of smoke. 

Fight for Wana Draw 

The 5th Marine Regiment relieved the ist Marines during the evening of 
14 May. The plan now was to attack Wana Draw and the neighboring heights 
with all available weapons. Four self-propelled guns and twelve tanks for direct 
fire arrived on 16 May. The tanks, working in relays and escorted by infantry 
fire teams, moved into the low ground at the mouth of Wana Draw and began 
firing into the high ground. The enemy responded almost immediately with 
47-mm. antitank fire, destroying two tanks; he also dropped in mortar shells to 
kill the accompanying infantry. The marines pulled back with their casualties. 
Observers, however, had spotted two of the Japanese antitank gun positions and 
main batteries of the Colorado destroyed both of them later in the afternoon. 

The tanks and M-7's (self-propelled guns) continued to press up into Wana 
Draw. On the 17th the 2d Battalion attempted to storm Hill 55, but the 
attack was premature. Japanese machine guns and mortars in Wana Ridge 
stopped the infantry, and 47-mm. guns knocked out two tanks. The marines 
were able to hold only the west slope of the hill. On the next day tanks and self- 
propelled guns fired more than 7,000 rounds of 75 mm. and 105 mm. into the 
Japanese positions. Engineers with demolitions and flame throwers destroyed 
enemy weapons on the lower slopes of Wana Ridge. 14 

Naval guns, field artillery, tanks, and M-7's pounded Shuri Heights and 
Hill 55 as the marines moved to the crest of the hill on the morning of 20 May. 
The infantry destroyed some Japanese on the crest after a brief hand-to-hand 
encounter. Tank-infantry teams moved up into Wana Draw and with point- 
blank fire killed many Japanese dug in on the reverse slope of Hill 55. Seizure of 
this position made possible some further advances on the ground below Hill 55. 
Marines overran many spider traps manned by Japanese soldiers equipped with 
satchel charges. By 21 May the ist Marine Division was attacking Shuri Ridge, 
the high barrier which was the last natural feature protecting Shuri Castle 
on the west. 



14 Some confusion had arisen as to the location of the town of Wana because the standard target map 
showed it on the southwest slopes of Wana Ridge. Study of the ground by historians indicated that the 
town actually may have been located southeast of Dakeshi and northeast of Wana Ridge. 



33° 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Deadlock^ at Wana Ridge, 16-21 May 

Despite the advances of the 5th Marines in the Wana Draw and Hill 55 
area and the firm grip of the 7th Marines on Dakeshi Ridge, the Japanese con- 
tinued to hold Wana Ridge. Their positions on this ridge overlooked both regi- 
mental sectors. On the 16th the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, sent patrols to probe 
around the west nose of Wana Ridge. When infantrymen moved up behind 
the patrol, the Japanese launched a series of counterattacks which drove the 
marines back to the northern base of Wana Ridge. 

After relieving the 1st Battalion on the morning of 17 May, the 3d Battalion 
attacked up Wana Ridge on three successive days; each time it was forced to fall 
back to its positions on the southern edge of Dakeshi town. The attackers were 
usually able to reach the top, but were subjected immediately to intense mortar 
and automatic fire from front and both flanks, making the crest untenable. On 
19 May the 7th Marines was replaced by the 1st Marines. The 7th, which had 
lost more than 1,000 killed, wounded, and missing since 10 May, was later 
awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its participation in the battle for 
Shuri Heights. 

By the time the 1st Marines took over, progress in the Wana Draw-Hill 55 
area was beginning to make itself felt in the Wana Ridge fighting. Tanks, 
M-7's, and artillery had been pounding the northern wall of Wana Draw, 
which was the reverse slope of Wana Ridge. Nevertheless, Japanese artillery and 
lighter weapons that were "zeroed in" on Wana Ridge from Shuri town still 
controlled the craggy ridge line. Some Japanese positions were built into the 
sheer, 200-foot walls of the upper part of Wana Draw and were almost unas- 
sailable. 

The 1st Marines opened a two-pronged assault on Wana Ridge on the 
morning of 20 May. The 3d Battalion was to attack southeast up Wana Ridge, 
while the 2d Battalion was to advance against 100 Meter Hill, the eastern 
extension of the ridge. Supported by tanks, self-propelled guns, and 37-mm. guns, 
the 2d Battalion advanced rapidly to the base of 100 Meter Hill. Three forward 
platoons were stopped on the slope by fire from Wana Ridge and from the 
south, but another company passed through them and continued the attack. 
By dusk the 2d Battalion held part of the ridge but not 100 Meter Hill. In heavy 
close-range fighting the 3d Battalion gained only 200 yards on the west slope. 

The attack continued on 21 May, but progress was even slower than on 
the day before. Like so many previous attempts on Okinawa, the attack faltered 
as troops were forced to make the most strenuous efforts to destroy particular 




REVERSE SLOPE OF WANA RIDGE as it appeared from slope of Wana Draw. High, 
treeless point on right side of photo is too Meter Hill. Below appear remains of a Japanese 
qj-mm. antitan\ gun and a crewman burned by flame-throwing tan\. 




332 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



positions with shell fire, grenades, and demolitions. The 2d Battalion poured 
napalm into Wana Draw and then ignited it; this drove some of the enemy into 
the open, where they were exposed to mortar fire. Bazookas, rifle grenades, and 
hundreds of white phosphorus and fragmentation grenades were used against 
the caves on the reverse slope of Wana. Japanese mortar and sniper fire was 
intense, forcing the marines to take cover in native tombs and coral forma- 
tions. The 3d Battalion advanced seventy-five yards through the broken ground 
on Wana Ridge, but then had to pull back to previous positions for the night. 
The 2d Battalion had been stopped short in another attempt to take 100 Meter 
Hill. 

Shortly after midnight of 21 May an enemy force of about 200 troops tried 
to drive the 1st Marines off the forward slope of Wana Ridge. After climbing 
the steep reverse slope by means of ropes, picks, and ladders, the Japanese 
surged through a small cut on the ridge and charged the Marine positions. 
Company C, holding a thin line between the 2d and 3d Battalions, used auto- 
matic and rifle fire, but the most effective weapon at such short range was the 
grenade. The marines threw them until their arms ached ; at the same time, mor- 
tarmen put heavy concentrations on the reverse slope of Wana. The Japanese 
attack was checked. Company C lost 4 killed and 26 wounded in the attack, but 
counted 140 dead Japanese in its sector in the morning. 



The Attach^ in the Center 

In the 77th Division's sector the Tenth Army's attack of n May marked 
a resumption of the snail-like frontal advance on Shuri. The division's two 
regiments, fighting on opposite sides of a long open valley southeast of Route 
5, had to coordinate more closely with neighboring divisions than with each 
other. The progress of the 305th on the 77th's right (west) was dependent 
largely on the advance of the 1st Marine Division on Dakeshi Ridge; the 306th, 
on the division left, worked closely with the 96th Division along high ground 
west and southwest of Kochi Ridge. (See Map No. XXXV.)| Enemy forces 



facing the 77th consisted of two battalions of the 32^ Regiment, 24th Division, 
supported by elements of four independent battalions, including a Shuri 
guard unit. 15 

The sector of the 305th Infantry was a jumble of ground extending south 
from Hill 187 toward Shuri. In contrast to the bold terrain features east and 

15 77th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 48, 13 May 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 338. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



333 



northwest of Shuri, this area was a rough plateau pitted with innumerable knolls, 
ravines, and draws. By the middle of May the ground was even more broken by 
shell holes, trenches, and gaping cave mouths. Hardly a living plant was visible. 
The 305th pressed on, although every advance of a few yards uncovered more 
positions to be destroyed. The attack took a steady toll of Americans ; by 15 May 
the 305th was fighting at about one-fourth strength. 16 

Ordinarily on Okinawa the Americans attacked in the morning, dug in 
on the new position late in the afternoon, and held a tight perimeter defense 
during the night. On a few occasions, however, the 77th Division made night 
attacks. Such an attack was made on 17 May by the 307th Infantry, which had 
relieved the 306th on the division left on 15 May in an attempt to capture Ishimmi 
Ridge, lying west of the town of Ishimmi. This attack, which developed into a 
desperate effort to hold a position surrounded by the enemy, was typical of the 
ordeal that many infantrymen had to go through on Okinawa to register even 
minor gains. 

Through the Japanese Lines to Ishimmi Ridge 

Shortly before dark of 16 May 1st Lt. Theodore S. Bell, commanding Com- 
pany E, 307th Infantry, took his platoon leaders up to the 2d Battalion observa- 
tion post atop a coral pinnacle, pointed out Ishimmi Ridge, dimly visible in the 
dusk, 1,200 yards to the south, and announced that Company E had been ordered 
to make a surprise night attack on the ridge. In the few minutes remaining 
before dark the officers studied the lay of the land. A heavy machine gun section 
from Company H and a reinforced rifle platoon from Company C were attached 
to Company E for the attack. The members of the reinforced company, many 
of them replacements without previous combat experience, were ordered to load 
and lock their weapons and to fix bayonets. 17 

Company E moved out in the dark at 0300, 17 May. Going down through 
the west part of the valley, the troops at 0400 reached the line of departure, where 
they were joined by the platoon from Company C. Fifteen minutes later the 
reinforced company was silently picking its way along low ground. Several 
gaunt trees on Ishimmi Ridge, showing dimly in the light of the frequent flares, 
served as guide points. Although Japanese controlled the ground, the Americans 
were not detected. Troops froze in their tracks whenever flares exploded over- 

10 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 353; XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 45, 15 May 45. 

17 The account of the night attack of Company E, 307th Infantry, is based entirely on the signed 
statement of 2d Lt Robert F. Meiser, commanding 2d Platoon, Company E. This statement is recorded in 
Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. Ill, pp. 67-82. 



334 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



head. The sound of battle — rifle and automatic fire and the whir of artillery 
shells — was always around them. 

The company reached Ishimmi Ridge just before dawn and began taking up 
positions along a 125-yard sector of the flat crest. Digging in was difficult because 
of the coral and rock formation. The crest of Ishimmi was hardly ten yards 
wide at the center but flared out on either end. The 3d Platoon moved to the 
left, the 2d Platoon formed the center, the platoon from Company C took the 
right flank, and the 1st Platoon protected the rear. Lieutenant Bell established 
his command post in a pocket twenty yards north of the narrow part of the 
ridge. 

By dawn the men were in position but the enemy was still unaware of their 
presence. A Japanese officer and his aide, talking and laughing as they emerged 
from a tunnel, were killed before they noticed the Americans. The 2d Platoon 
found a dozen sleeping Japanese in one trench and dispatched them with bay- 
onets and rifle fire. By 0530, however, the enemy was fully alerted. Japanese 
troops began to pour out of tunnels in a ridge south of Ishimmi and tried to cross 
the intervening valley. American machine-gun fire cut them down. Soon enemy 
artillery, mortar, machine-gun, and rifle fire was sweeping the bare crest, forcing 
the troops to lie flat in their shallow holes. The Japanese were firing from all 
directions, including the rear, and were delivering mortar fire even from tun- 
nel openings along the lower slopes of Ishimmi Ridge itself. 
The First Day 

The Japanese quickly spotted Company E's automatic weapons. One heavy 
machine gun was blown to pieces as its crew was setting it on the tripod; the 
other heavy was destroyed before it had fired one box of ammunition. Almost 
all the members of the crews were killed. Both light machine guns had been 
knocked out by 0700, one being completely buried. All but one of the light 
mortars were out of action by 1000. Lieutenant Bell's communications with 
Battalion were also a target. Of five radios brought along by his company and 
by the artillery forward observer, one was smashed by mortar shells, another 
was set on fire, and two had their aerials shot off. Only one remained intact. 

As the American fire power was reduced, the Japanese tried to close in to 
destroy the beleaguered force. The 3d Platoon, occupying an exposed position 
on the eastern part of the ridge, repulsed three bayonet charges on its left. The 
Americans suffered many casualties from grenades. Japanese in the ridge south 
of Ishimmi took a hea vy toll of the 2d Platoon, occupying the center. Two knee 
mortars, firing in unison 100 yards of! either flank, systematically swept the 




ISHIMMI RIDGE, extending from right foreground almost to spinner of airplane from 
which this picture was ta\en, rises out of flat ground northeast of Shuri. Immediately 
behind the ridge are village of Ishimmi and the draw before Okinawa's ancient capital. 
From these positions the enemy could pour mortar fire into the small group of the ^ojth 
Infantry, JJth Division, on the hill. 



336 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



American positions from one end to another. The dead lay in pools of blood 
where they fell, or were pushed from the holes to make room for the living. 
An aid man, although wounded himself, continued his work until his supplies 
were exhausted. 

During the day the 307th Infantry could not reinforce the company over 
the fire-swept approaches, but supported the force with artillery and self- 
propelled guns. Cannon company weapons put direct fire on Japanese trying to 
storm the hill. Many American shells landed so close to the encircled troops 
that the men were showered with rock. The one remaining radio enabled 
Lieutenant Bell to pinpoint targets for support fire. Mortars and heavy machine 
guns also helped to break up enemy charges. 

The combined fire piled up the Japanese on the slopes of Ishimmi, but their 
attacks continued. By midday the 2d and 3d Platoons were at half strength and 
the rest of the company also had suffered heavily. Realizing that he could not 
possibly hold his extended positions during the night, Lieutenant Bell ordered 
the 2d and 3d Platoons late in the afternoon to pull into the command post and 
form a perimeter around it. Withdrawal was difficult, for the 2d Platoon had 
six badly mangled men in its sector. These were placed on ponchos and 
dragged out sled-fashion. One casualty was killed by machine-gun fire on the 
way out. 

During the night a rescue force tried to get through to Company E, but 
the Japanese ambushed it and the survivors turned back. The Americans on 
Ishimmi Ridge, bombarded during the night by artillery, mortars, and "buzz 
bombs," repelled several attempts at infiltration. Flares kept the area well lighted 
and enabled Company E to see the approaching Japanese. Sleep was impossible. 
The tired, tense men hunched in their foxholes and waited for the dawn. 
The Second Day 

The order came by radio in the morning of 18 May to stay at all costs. 
Lieutenant Bell said firmly, "We stay." The men resigned themselves to a last- 
ditch stand. Their grenades exhausted and their machine guns and mortars 
destroyed, the remaining men salvaged every clip of ammunition from the 
bandoleers of the dead. Spare workable rifles were loaded and bayonets laid 
alongside. Enemy pressure increased steadily during the day. Some Americans 
were shot at close range as they darted from hole to hole to escape grenades. At 
one time eight knee mortars were pounding the ridge, firing in pairs. Friendly 
artillery could to some extent keep off the charging Japanese but seemed unable 
to ferret out the enemy mortars, which were well protected. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



337 



The moans of wounded men, many of whom were in pitiful condition from 
lack of water and of medical aid, added to the strain. All canteens had been 
emptied the previous night. Nevertheless, battle discipline remained excellent. 
The worst problem concerned the replacements, who were courageous but inex- 
perienced. Thrust suddenly into a desperate situation, some of them failed at 
crucial moments. One man saw two Japanese attacking a sergeant thirty feet 
away, but his finger froze on the trigger. Another shouted wildly for a comrade 
to shoot some Japanese while his own rifle lay in his hands. Another saw an 
enemy soldier a few yards from his hole, pulled the trigger, and discovered that 
he had forgotten to reload. By the end of the ordeal, however, the replacements 
who survived were battle-hardened veterans. 

During the afternoon the 307th attempted to reinforce the small group. 
Elements of Company C tried to cross the open ground north of Ishimmi Ridge. 
Only the commander and five men reached Company E. The men scrambled 
safely into foxholes, but the commander, shot through the head while racing 
toward the command post, fell dead on the parapet of the command post foxhole. 
Spirits rose considerably when word came later in the afternoon that a litter- 
bearing unit of eighty men would try to get through in the evening. 

Enemy fire slackened after dark, and the first of the litter bearers arrived 
at about 2200. They immediately started back carrying casualties. Walking 
wounded accompanied them. The litter bearers moved swiftly and managed to 
avoid being seen in the light of flares. Through splendid discipline and good 
luck eighteen men were carried out in two and a half hours, and others walked 
out. The litter teams had brought some water and ammunition and the troops 
drank for the first time since the day before. The second sleepless night on 
the ridge passed. 

The Third Day 

On 19 May the enemy seemed to intensify his efforts to recapture Ishimmi 
Ridge. The besieged troops wondered whether his supply of men and ammu- 
nition was inexhaustible. The Japanese launched several attacks which were 
repulsed with great difficulty. Only the support of artillery and mortars, together 
with self-propelled mounts firing with precision on both flanks of Ishimmi 
Ridge, prevented the enemy from making an attack in strength which would 
have overrun the American positions. One enemy attack of platoon strength 
was dispersed by mortar and machine-gun fire and by a four-battalion time-on- 
target artillery concentration. Japanese mortar fire continued to fall on Ishimmi, 
however, and took its toll during the day. 



338 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



A message arrived during trie morning that Company E would be relieved 
that evening. By noon the radio had become so weak that further communi- 
cation with the company was impossible. The day wore slowly on. By 2100 
there was still no sign of the relief. Shortly afterward, however, rifle fire intensified 
to the rear, a sign of activity there. At 2200 Company L, 3d Battalion, 306th 
Infantry, arrived. The relief was carried out in pitch darkness; each member of 
Company E left as soon as a replacement reached his position. As the haggard 
survivors were about to descend the ridge at 0300, a bursting shell hit two of 
the newcomers; one of them had to be evacuated on a poncho. Carrying its 
own wounded, Company E followed a white tape to the rear and arrived safely. 

Of the 204 officers and men of the reinforced company that had made the 
night attack on Ishimmi, 156 had been killed or wounded. There were 28 
privates, 1 noncommissioned officer, and 2 officers left of the original 129 
members of Company E. The platoon sent in relief by Company C had gone 
out with 58 effectives and returned with 13. Of the 17 men in the heavy weapons 
section only 4 came back. Company E had spearheaded a several-hundred-yard 
advance toward Shuri, however, and with the help of supporting weapons 
had killed hundreds of Japanese around Ishimmi. 

During the battle to hold Ishimmi Ridge, the 305th Infantry had continued 
its attack along Route 5. The enemy held tenaciously to his positions in the 
finger ridges running west from the highway. Fierce fire fights flared up, often 
holding up the advance for a substantial time. The network of small hills and 
ridges afforded the Japanese almost complete interlocking fire; many positions 
were covered by five or six others. Even though the 305th utilized all its 
supporting arms, including medium tanks, self-propelled howitzers, antitank 
guns, and armored flame throwers, it was almost impossible to keep all the 
supporting strong points neutralized at the same time. The 306th Infantry 
relieved the 305th on 21 May, as the troops were reaching the northern outskirts 
of Shuri. 18 

The Reduction of Chocolate Drop Hill 

Of all the strongly defended terrain features that made up the concentric 
ring of defenses around Shuri, Chocolate Drop Hill was undoubtedly the most 
insignificant in appearance. Its name, which was coined by 77th Division troops 
while headquarters was still calling it Hill 130, was aptly descriptive. The hill, 

18 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 54-57, 18-21 May 45; Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, 
Ch. Ill, pp. 85-86. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



339 



a bare, brown hump of earth with a slightly peaked crest, rising abruptly from 
a flat expanse of ground, did indeed resemble a chocolate drop resting on a 
slightly tilted saucer. 19 

Several circumstances made the "Drop" an almost impregnable position. 
Movement across the saucer was extremely difficult. Except for low scrub growth 
in a few spots there was no cover on the surrounding ground. The west part of 
the saucer, near Route 5, was low and marshy — unsuited for tanks and other 
heavy weapons. Near Chocolate Drop was one of the largest mine fields on 
Okinawa. This area was covered by fire from Flattop Hill on the east, from 
Ishimmi Ridge on the southwest, and from other heights the entire way around 
the circle except to the north where the Americans were advancing. The Japanese 
also had the usual reverse-slope defenses on Chocolate Drop and on Wart Hill, 
a knob 500 yards east of Chocolate Drop on the long ridge running southwest 
between Flattop and Chocolate Drop. 

At 0700 on 11 May, immediately after the 30-minute artillery preparation, 
the infantry moved out. The 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, was to make the main 
effort on the left (east) of the 77th Division sector. The troops had advanced a 
little more than 200 yards when they were stopped by a hail of artillery and 
mortar fire. Fields of crossed machine-gun fire, converging just north of Choco- 
late Drop, also barred the way. By 0900 one company was engaged in close-in 
fighting near the north base of the hill. Other troops tried to advance on the left 
but were stopped by enemy entrenched around the base of Wart Hill. 20 

Tanks, self-propelled guns, artillery, mortars, and other infantry heavy weap- 
ons supported the attack, but no weapon seemed capable of reaching the Japanese 
dug in on the reverse slope of the Drop. Japanese weapons on Flattop took a 
heavy toll. One platoon, exposed to Flattop, sustained eleven casualties in the 
first few minutes of its attack. Japanese 47-mm. antitank guns raised havoc with 
tanks attempting to cross the open ground. Two tanks were destroyed and six 
others damaged by this fire. Another tank threw a track and was later destroyed 
by a Japanese satchel charge. After sustaining fifty-three casualties during the 
day, the battalion was withdrawn to the previous night's positions. 

10 Personal Obsn of ist I & H Off. The precise location of Chocolate Drop Hill is not clear. While 
XXIV Corps and 77th Division records place it in Target Area 8073P of the 1 : 25,000 map of Okinawa, 
observation of the ground and study of photographs indicate that the hill is located from 200 to 300 yards 
northeast of that point. 

20 The account of the capture of Chocolate Drop is taken from Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. 
II, Ch. Ill, pp. 48-87; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 341-51; 77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa; 306th 
Inf Actn Rpt; 307th Inf Actn Rpt; 706th Tk Bn Actn Rpt. 




CHOCOLATE DROP HILL under attac\ 13 May from the west by tan\s and armored 
flame throwers. Tan\s which moved through the draw (below) between the "Drop" and 
Flattop were \noc\ed out by fire from reverse slopes of these hills. 




THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



34 1 



On the following day, 12 May, the 306th held its position and aided the ad- 
vance of friendly forces on both flanks. The 2d Battalion, 306th, supported by a 
platoon of tanks, anchored the right flank of the 96th Division. The 1st Battalion, 
306th, supported the advance of the 305th Infantry. This regiment was having ex- 
tremely hard going in the broken ground west of Route 5. Japanese here held 
positions in large, well-protected caves. One such cave had two Japanese 2% -ton 
trucks parked end-to-end inside it. 

The plan for 13 May was a combined attack on Flattop Hill and Chocolate 
Drop. After a short but intense artillery preparation, the 306th renewed its 
attack on the Drop. The 2d Battalion led the assault, moving down the high 
ground on the northeast. The leading company reached the hill in thirteen 
minutes, only to stall at its northern base under intense artillery and mortar fire. 
An effort to swing left into the area between Chocolate Drop and Flattop was 
stopped quickly: there the troops were more exposed than ever. The infantry 
managed to secure part of the slope of Chocolate Drop but was soon forced 
back to the base of the hill. At 1400 the enemy scored twenty hits with 150-mm. 
artillery in the area just north of Chocolate Drop. Supported by all available 
artillery pieces, tanks, and self-propelled guns, the battalion made a third attempt 
to seize the hill. The troops, however, could not gain a tenable position, and 
they withdrew 300 yards to a fold of ground north of the hill. Two American 
medium tanks, one of them equipped with a 105-mm. howitzer, were destroyed 
during the day. 

Some troops managed to dig in at the base of Wart Hill and to hold their 
position despite withdrawal of the forces on Chocolate Drop. Japanese who 
occupied trenches on the other side of Wart attacked this small group during the 
night. The fight was so fierce that the Americans were driven out of their holes. In 
the dark they did not dare to shoot for fear of hitting comrades. With grenades, 
bayonets, and entrenching tools, the men stormed back to their holes, now 
occupied by a dozen Japanese, and quickly regained their position. 

By 14 May the 306th Infantry was so depleted in strength that the remaining 
riflemen were grouped into one battalion. Led by five tanks, this composite 
battalion attempted to advance beyond Wart Hill. As soon as the assault platoon 
reached the slope of Wart, a holocaust of fire from the front and both flanks 
hit the troops. In a few minutes the platoon was cut down to half strength, 
and the platoon leader, a platoon sergeant, and a squad leader were all casual- 
ties. Enemy antitank fire hit six tanks soon after they appeared on the crest. 
The line of dead infantrymen at one place near Chocolate Drop looked to one 



34 2 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



observer like a skirmish line that had lain down to rest. Further efforts to take 
Chocolate Drop and the high ground to the east were fruitless. On the next 
morning the 306th Infantry, which had suffered 471 casualties since 6 May, 
was replaced by the 307th. 

The 307th Infantry attacked through the 306th at 0900 on 15 May. The 
scheme of maneuver was a simultaneous assault on Flattop on the left (east) 
and on Chocolate Drop on the right. The troops moved slowly toward their 
objectives under heavy fire from rifles, machine guns, and mortars. Simultane- 
ously elements of the 96th Division were making progress in their sector east of the 
77th, and this aided the 77th's advance. By noon the 3d Battalion was at the 
north base of the Drop and was working up the north slopes of Flattop. The 
2d Battalion moved around to the right of the 3d Battalion and advanced 
about 500 yards before being held up by intense mortar and machine-gun fire. 
But the Americans were still unable to capitalize on their advances. To move 
through the saddle between Chocolate Drop and Flattop was to invite fire 
from the reverse slope of the Drop as well as from the entire system of defenses 
to the south. Several more tanks were disabled before the advance ended. 

For the first time, however, the assault elements of the 77th Division were 
able to hold their positions directly north of Chocolate Drop and just below the 
crest on the north slope of Flattop. During the night the enemy tried to break 
the 307th's hold on the immediate approaches to Chocolate Drop. From huge 
caves on the reverse slope of the hill, groups of Japanese armed with knee mor- 
tars attacked the Americans twice during the dark. These attacks were warded 
off. During the night, however, the Japanese discovered in a ditch just east of 
Chocolate Drop five men who had been cut off after the assault company with- 
drew from the hill on the previous evening; they killed two of the group and 
wounded one. 

The 307th continued the attack on 16 May, but this was another day of 
frustration. One platoon of the 3d Battalion reached the crest of Flattop; then 
enemy mortar and machine-gun fire forced the troops back. Four times more 
during the day the 3d Battalion reached and attempted to hold the crest, but 
each time the troops fell back to the north slope. The 2d Battalion continued to 
probe around the sides of Chocolate Drop in an effort to reach the enemy on 
top and on the reverse slope. One platoon was forced off Chocolate Drop late 
in the afternoon, but other infantrymen were able to hold positions gained 
during the day on the saddle east of the hill. 

Slowly the 77th Division forces between Flattop and Route 5 were reducing 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



343 



enemy positions bearing on the area in front of the 307th Infantry. By 17 May 
this progress began to show in the advances of the foot troops around Chocolate 
Drop. Covered by company heavy weapons out on both flanks, infantrymen 
worked around both sides of the hill to the huge caves on the reverse slope. 
Inside were 4 antitank guns, 1 field piece, 4 machine guns, 4 heavy mortars, and 
2 American 60-mm. mortars. By nightfall the caves had been partially sealed 
off. During the night an enemy force launched a counterattack against the 
American positions around the hill but was repulsed with the loss of twenty- 
five Japanese killed. 

During the next two days the 3d Battalion consolidated and expanded its 
positions around Chocolate Drop. Reducing the tiny hill continued to be tick- 
lish work because enemy positions to the south still overlooked the area. The 
fighting was still so confused that three wounded Americans lay south of Choco- 
late Drop for two days before relief arrived. By that time two had died and the 
third was so delirious that he thought he was still fighting Japanese and had to 
be forcibly subdued. By 20 May the caves were completely sealed off. The enemy 
made a final attempt to retake Chocolate Drop, attacking in company strength, 
but was repelled with the loss of half his force. On the same day the 3d Battalion, 
using tanks, flame throwers, and demolition teams, finally secured the crest of 
Flattop. 

Some days later Tokyo Radio broadcast a message in English to the Ameri- 
can troops on Okinawa: 

Sugar Loaf Hill . . . Chocolate Drop . . . Strawberry Hill. Gee, those places sound 
wonderful! You can just see the candy houses with the white picket fences around them 
and the candy canes hanging from the trees, their red and white stripes glistening in the 
sun. But the only thing red about those places is the blood of Americans. Yes, sir, those 
are the names of hills in southern Okinawa where the fighting's so close that you get down 
to bayonets and sometimes your bare fists. Artillery and naval gunfire are all right when 
the enemy is far off but they don't do you any good when he's right in the same foxhole 
with you. I guess it's natural to idealize the worst places with pretty names to make them 
seem less awful. Why Sugar Loaf has changed hands so often it looks like Dante's Inferno. 
Yes, sir, Sugar Loaf Hill . . . Chocolate Drop . . . Strawberry Hill. They sound good, 
don't they? Only those who've been there know what they're really like. 21 

Flattop and Dick, Hills 

The right elements of the 96th Division were still fighting for Zebra Hill 
when the Tenth Army attack order went into effect on 11 May. Southwest of 
Zebra were other formidable positions that were to engage elements of both 

21 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 347. 



344 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the 96th and 77th for ten days. These positions were built into Flattop and into 
the Dick Hills, east of Flattop. The Dick Hills and Flattop were so close to one 
another that their reduction depended on close coordination of troops of the 
96th and 77th across the divisional boundary. A captured Japanese map showed 
these hills to be on the perimeter of the inner core of the Shuri defenses. 

The Japanese had a miscellaneous collection of troops in the Flattop-Dick 
Hills area. Although heavily reduced during the past weeks, the iid Regiment, 
24th Division, was still ably commanded and capable of effective defense in the 
scores of available positions in the Flattop area. Supporting the jid Regiment 
were troops of the 24th Transport Regiment, the 29th Independent Battalion, 
and the 2jth Tanf^ Regiment. The remaining six tanks of the 2jth were dug in 
behind Flattop and used as stationary pillboxes. Engineers from the tank regi- 
ment had mined roads and other approaches and had constructed bell-shaped 
foxholes from which satchel charges could be thrown against American tanks. 
The Japanese had salvaged a number of 7.7-mm. machine guns from destroyed 
tanks to round out their defenses. 22 

The Dick Hill mass consisted of four heights, known officially as Dick 
Baker, Dick Able, Dick Right, and Dick Left. The highest and most heavily 
fortified of these was Dick Right (ordinarily called Dick Hill), which was a 
companion hill mass to Flattop and lay just southeast of it. Dick Baker was close 
to Zebra and just west of the narrow road running southwest from Onaga along 
the southeast slope of Zebra. Dick Able was southeast of Dick Baker. Dick Left, 
another well-fortified and strongly defended height, was the southern elevation 
of the ridge running south from Dick Right. RSee Map No. XXXIX.) 

During the night of 10-11 May a fight raged on the crest of Zebra Hill 
as the Japanese tried to oust the Americans from positions occupied on the previ- 
ous day. Not until 0730 was the enemy forced off the hill, leaving 122 of his 
number dead. During the nth, the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, commanded by 
Col. M. L. Dill, consolidated its positions on Zebra. Operating on the reverse 
slope of the hill was difficult since Japanese positions in the Dick Hills area com- 
manded that slope. An attempt to move over open ground to Dick Baker, under- 
taken later in the day, proved abortive because of accurate enemy fire. One 
assault platoon lost all its noncommissioned officers and a private first class was 
in command at the end of the day. 23 

22 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 47, 18 May 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 369-70. 
3 The account of operations of the 96th Divisions at Dick Hills is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th 
Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 25-31, 58—62, 64-67, 72-74. 




DICK HILLS AND FLATTOP, photographed 23 May 1945, two days after reduction of 
these positions. Enemy was still dropping harassing fire on farther slopes, with battle 
moving closer to Shuri. American foxholes, some covered by shelter halves, can be seen in 
profusion on the hillsides. 



346 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The 382c! attacked again on 12 May, with the 1st Battalion on the right 
(west) and the 3d Battalion on the left. Block and tackle were used to haul 
37-mm. antitank guns up to the top of Zebra for direct fire into Japanese positions 
on heights to the south. Artillery fire and the 37-mm. fire enabled the attack of 
the 3d Battalion to get off to a good start toward Baker Hill. While the tank- 
infantry teams of the 1st Battalion cleared out the reverse slope of Zebra, the 3d 
Battalion advanced slowly between Zebra and Item Hills. The 1st Battalion 
attacked toward Dick Baker but was surprised by fire from its rear. Despite the 
efforts of the two battalions, some Japanese on the reverse slope of Zebra had 
survived. Nevertheless, assault troops of the 1st Battalion reached Dick Baker 
and dug in on the crest under a heavy smoke screen. Heavy fire soon forced them 
to withdraw. 

In the afternoon Company A attacked up the east slope of Dick Baker. 
The troops were halfway to the top when most of them were pinned down by 
heavy fire from the south. Lt. Woodrow W. Anderson and three soldiers con- 
tinued the assault. Anderson covered two huge caves on the east face of Dick 
Baker by fire while Pfc. Amador G. Duran made a dash between them to the 
crest. Anderson and the two other men joined him. Suddenly a terrific mortar 
barrage descended on the hill. Anderson and Duran were killed instantly when 
a shell landed squarely in their foxhole ; the two survivors ran down the north- 
west slope to friendly territory. No further progress was made during the day. 
The regiment's only success of the day was the 3d Battalion's capture of Baker 
Hill, 600 yards south of Zebra. 

The effort of 13 May was closely coordinated with the advance on the right 
made by the 306th Infantry, 77th Division. The 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, 
pushed off shortly after 1100. The plan was for Company A, leading, to attack 
Dick Baker while Company B swung out to the left toward Dick Able. For a 
time everything went smoothly. Both companies reached the crests of their 
objectives, meeting little fire, and they promptly began blowing up caves and 
pillboxes. But Japanese gunners were waiting. Suddenly a storm of explosives 
hit the forces on Dick Able. Over 200 rounds of 90-mm. mortar fire, together 
with 150-mm. artillery rounds and knee mortar shells, fell on the small, exposed 
crest. The commander of Company B and all but one or two of the fourteen 
men with him were killed. Company A was able to hold its position on Dick 
Baker J(SeeMap No. XL.)] 

The Japanese reinforced their positions in the Dick Hills area during the 
night of 13-14 May. On the next morning enemy fire was so strong that tanks 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



347 



had to be used to transport supplies to the forward troops. It was a risky procedure 
to leave a foxhole on Dick Baker even to receive supplies from tanks at the base 
of the hill. In the afternoon, after coordinating with the 306th Infantry on his 
right, Colonel Dill launched an attack on Dick Able and Dick Right. Sup- 
ported by Company A on Dick Baker, Company B managed to reach the crest 
of Able without difficulty. The heavy pounding of support weapons during the 
morning had evidently knocked out many of the mortars covering this position. 
A platoon of Company C then attacked Dick Right from the north. Five infan- 
trymen advanced halfway up the slope, but the first three were killed by rifle fire. 
The enemy also opened up on the platoon with mortars, and the Americans were 
forced to withdraw. 

The 3d Battalion also attacked Dick Right, advancing from the Baker 
Hill area toward the east fingers of Dick. Company K managed to reach the 
military crest on the north slopes of the fingers. As Company L, supported by 
a platoon of tanks, started up a draw leading to Dick Right, a barrage of mortar 
shells descended on it. Some of the rounds hit the tanks and had the same effect 
on the accompanying foot troops as air bursts. All but two of the twenty-three 
men in the leading platoon were killed or wounded. Despite the continuing 
mortar fire, the company commander rallied his remaining men and led 
them to the military crest on Dick Right, where they tied in on the right of 
Company K. In obtaining this precarious hold on Dick, the 3d Battalion had 
lost six killed and forty-seven wounded. 

During the night heavy rain fell, adding to the difficulties the troops already 
were having with the steep terrain. Before the rain the soft earth had made 
climbing much like scaling a sand dune; now the hillsides were slick with wet 
clay. During the morning the 3d Battalion, 382d, was able to consolidate its 
position. It was still difficult, however, to move from the military crest to the 
topographical crest of Dick Hill; one platoon made seven attempts to seize 
and hold positions on the skyline but each time was forced back just below the 
crest. Troops were able only to extend their hold westward along the north 
slope of the long ridge. These attacks brought the 382d Infantry into close con- 
junction with the fighting around Flattop on the west, toward which the left 
elements of the 77th had been driving for several days. I (See Map No. XL1.Y] 

Seen from the north, Flattop resembled what its name implied — a long, 
tabletop ridge, dropping abruptly to narrow saddles at both ends. It stood on the 
right flank of the rugged hill masses extending southeast to Conical Hill and 
constituting the eastern defenses of Shuri. Flattop dominated the Kochi Valley 



348 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



for 1,300 yards to the north, including Chocolate Drop on the northwest. Just 
to the east, on the other side of a saddle deepened by a road cut, was Dick Hill, 
objective of the 96th Division. Flattop had a fairly steep reverse slope with the 
usual profusion of enemy defenses. 24 

Flattop was one objective of the 306th Infantry, 77th Division, when that 
regiment moved out in the Tenth Army attack of 11 May. Chocolate Drop was 
the other objective. Flattop commanded both Chocolate Drop and the west 
slopes of Dick Hill, and only after Flattop was taken could the others be entirely 
reduced. On 11 May elements of the 3d Battalion started to work slowly along 
the extended swell of ground north of Flattop. On the 12th, tank-infantry teams 
tried to reach Flattop but failed. Japanese fire power prevented the troops from 
coming within range of the height. Similar efforts on the 13th and 14th were 
frustrated, but each day artillery and other support weapons heavily pounded 
the hill. The 307th relieved the 306th Infantry on the morning of 15 May. 

Throughout the rainy night of 14-15 May, artillery pounded Flattop and 
the neighboring hills. The 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, attacked at 0900 in the 
morning. Troops moved up the slippery face of Flattop with grenades, satchel 
charges, and portable flame throwers. Tanks put direct fire on the crest and 
face of the hill. The troops spent the afternoon in a grenade battle with the enemy 
and dug in for the night just below the crest. On the next day a platoon reached 
the top of the hill, but shortly afterward a heavy mortar concentration from 
enemy positions on Tom Hill, 1,000 yards to the south, forced the Americans 
off the crest. Meanwhile, support tanks had quickly knocked out the six enemy 
tanks dug in around Flattop. A member of the Japanese 2jth Tanl^ Regiment, 
amazed by the accuracy of American tank fire, described it as "100 shots — 100 
bulls eyes." The destruction of these tanks with their 37-mm. guns scarcely 
affected the Flattop fighting. The real trouble was with mines and 47-mm. anti- 
tank fire, which together knocked out three American tanks during the day. 

On the 17th another bitter struggle raged on Flattop. The struggle swayed 
back and forth across the narrow crest of the hill. Company K, the assaulting 
unit, had been reduced to fourteen infantrymen by the end of the day; finally it 
was forced back off the top. Tanks tried to go through the road cut between 
Flattop and Dick Hill, but two of them were disabled by mines, leaving the cut 
blocked. The road cut was later blown along its entire length by seven tons of 
bangalore torpedoes to remove the mines. The infantry continued its close-in 

24 The account of operations o£ the 77th Division at Flattop Hill is based on Appleman, XXIV Corps 
History, pp. 366-77, and Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



349 



fighting with the enemy on 18 May while more tanks tried to move through the 
cut. A 47-mm. antitank gun destroyed one of the first tanks to emerge from the 
cut, but it was knocked out in turn by an American 105-mm. self-propelled gun. 
Other tanks of the 77th and 96th Divisions came up in support. 

Now for the first time the Americans could place direct fire on the reverse 
slopes of Flattop and Dick Hill. This was to prove decisive. Tanks and assault 
guns put destructive fires on Japanese positions throughout the next day, 19 
May. Bayonet charges by the enemy from southwest of Flattop were dispersed 
by artillery and mortar fire. On 20 May the final American attack started with a 
saturation shower of grenades. A chain of men extending from the base of Flat- 
top passed hand grenades to the troops lined up along the crest, who threw the 
missiles as fast as they could pull out the pins. Having seized the advantage, the 
infantry moved down the reverse slope blasting caves with satchel charges and 
flame throwers. Tanks along the road cut accounted for many of the Japanese. 
By 1545 Flattop had fallen. More than 250 enemy bodies lay on the crest and 
reverse slope of the hill. 

In the zone of the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, the bitter struggle for Dick 
Hill continued from 15 to 20 May. All attempts to move over the crest of the hill 
were met by grazing machine-gun fire from Oboe Hill to the left (east) and 
from Flattop to the right. The 2d Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion on the 
morning of the 16th. During the previous night the American lines had been 
pushed back down the south slope of Dick Hill; thus a part of the work had to 
be done over again. There seemed to be no decrease in Japanese resistance, and 
the battle raged into the night. Efforts to hold the crest of Dick Hill on the west 
exposed the men to fire from Flattop. The 382d made little more progress on 
the 17th. 

The seizure of the road cut between Flattop and Dick Hill on 18 May was 
the turning point in the Dick Hill fighting as it had also been in the struggle for 
Flattop. On 19 and 20 May the hold of the 382d on the reverse slope of Dick Hill 
was steadily enlarged. Despite continuing heavy antitank fire from enemy posi- 
tions to the south, tank-infantry teams methodically destroyed Japanese strong 
points in the immediate Dick Hills area. On one occasion an armored flame 
thrower flushed fifty Japanese out of a cave; all fifty were cut down as they fled. 
Pockets remained to be cleaned out as late as 21 May. By that time, however, the 
382d was involved in another grinding effort to take Oboe Hill on the regimental 
left. 25 

"Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 78-81, 95-97, 103-06, 110— 11, 119— 21. 




ADVANCE AROUND DICK HILLS AND FLATTOP was difficult. Above appear 
troops of the 382*1 Infantry, yyth Division, on Dic\ Ba\er supporting advance to Dic\ Right. 
Below, Flattop is seen receiving American tan\ fire. 




THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



351 



Colonel Nist, XXIV Corps G-2, summed up the action along the Shuri 
front during the first week following the attack of 11 May in these words: 

During the past week's action, as our troops continued to fight their way into the enemy's 
main defenses, the Japanese demonstrated a complete willingness to suffer annihilation 
rather than to sacrifice ground. There was no variation in this pattern during the period. 26 

Opening the East Coast Corridor 

When an opening was finally made in the Shuri line it was on the extreme 
left, along Buckner Bay. This opening was made by an advance up Conical Hill 
on 13 May which, in the opinion of General Buckner, who watched it, was the 
most spectacular of the campaign. The break, when it came, was a twofold 
surprise. General Hodge had believed that the high ground east of Shuri 
would have to be taken before Conical Hill, which is farther to the south, some- 
what lower, and one of the strongest natural positions on Okinawa, could be 
successfully assaulted. For his part, General Bradley, commanding the 96th 
Division, was convinced after his reconnaissance of the terrain that Conical Hill 
would have to be approached from the northwest, by advances down the ridge 
line of the chain of hills. As events turned out, Conical Hill was reduced before 
Oboe Hill and the high ground at Shuri, and by attack from another direction. 
Furious fighting was still in progress in the inner areas for many days after 
capture of Conical's eastern face had opened the way for American troops 
to pass down the coast to Yonabaru and spill out into southern Okinawa. 27 
Conical — the Million Dollar Hill 

The Navy, pouring expensive shells into Conical Hill from Buckner Bay, 
marked it with a "Million Dollar" price tag. The peak rose 476 feet high above 
the Yonabaru coastal plain, less than two miles south of Hill 178. From it rad- 
iated six long, sharp ridges. A long eastern spur ran down toward Buckner Bay; 
a second jutted northeast to Gaja Ridge, and another due north. Others ran 
northwest to King Hill, due west to Love, and due south for 800 yards along 
the coast to end in a rounded knob called Sugar Hill, just northwest of Yona- 
baru. The flat plain between Conical Hill and Buckner Bay was about 400 yards 
wide, and Route 13, the important east coast thoroughfare, passed through it. 
(See Map No. XLII.)| 

26 XXIV Corps G— 2 Weekly Summary No. 10, 13-19 May 45. 

27 Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 15 Jun 45; 96th Div FO No. 21, 10 May 45; Mulford and 
Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 13, 14. 



35 2 OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



A mile northeast of Conical Peak on the coastal flat was the enemy's pro- 
jected Yonabaru airstrip, grass-covered and barely distinguishable. Unaha lay 
west of the airstrip, and behind that village the ground rose steeply to Hill 178. 
This high ground formed the northern edge of a U-shaped bowl the open end 
of which faced the bay. A chain of hills known from north to south as Tare, 
William, Easy, Charlie, and King shaped the base of the U, while Conical itself 
Was the southern arm. The enclosed area was flat and sometimes swampy, 
except for Gaja Ridge, which rose by the village of Yonagusuku (or Gaja) near 
the middle of the southern arm. 

A valley running behind Fox, Charlie, King, and Conical Hills, the entire 
way down to the Naha-Yonabaru road, separated the Conical Hill sector from 
the inner ring of Shuri defenses. The Oboe Hill mass, guarding Shuri's eastern 
flank, lay a mile northwest of the peak of Conical, across the valley. 28 

About 1,000 Japanese, heavily armed with mortars and organic 75-mm. 
artillery, occupied positions on Conical Hill itself. Defense of the sector was 
entrusted to Col. Hotishi Kanayama's 89th Regiment of the 24th Division, 
reinforced by the 2jth Independent Battalion, one of a number of harbor con- 
struction battalions which had changed their designation to "Sea Raiding Bat- 
talions." Also attached were one company of the 3d Independent Machine Gun 
Battalion and the 23d Antitank, Company. A captured Japanese map dated 8 
May placed two battalions of the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade as guarding 
the ground between the peak of Conical and Yonabaru, but it appears that these 
units were moved to the Dakeshi sector soon afterward. Their place was taken 
by the converted airdrome-maintenance squadron from the Naha airfield and 
also by the 29th Independent Battalion.™ 
The Attac\ That Vailed 

The task given the 383d Infantry, 96th Division, when on 10 May it relieved 
the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, was the capture of Conical Hill. The 1st 
Battalion, which was to make the main effort, effected the relief on William 
Hill and the eastern slopes of Easy Hill. Easy was a symmetrical, oblong hill 
on a north-south axis, with steep sides. A deep, narrow cut separated Easy 
from Charlie Hill on the south. Charlie Hill on its eastern side was also steep. 
It was roughly circular and had three prominent noses: one to the northeast 
offering an approach, one on the southwest pointing to Love Hill, and a third 

28 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 385-87; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 7-10. 

29 The account of operations of the 96th Division at Conical Hill is taken from Mulford and Rogers, 96th 
Div History, Pt. IV; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII; G-2 Periodic Rpts for the period. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



353 



running almost due south to a cut separating it from a U-shaped hill called King. 
Fox Hill lay to the west of Easy, its southern tip ending in a steep little rise 
west of Charlie known as Fox Pinnacle. 

The big attack on n May started auspiciously. After a thorough mortar 
preparation Company B took Easy Hill without too much difficulty and then 
moved through the cut between Easy and Charlie to flank Fox from the 
southeast and gain positions on its crest. Company C, after jockeying for 
favorable jumping-off positions, managed to establish itself on top of Charlie 
Hill, though not at its summit. The Americans then began the first of a long 
series of grenade duels with Japanese dug into the reverse slope twenty or thirty 
yards away. Two days later Company B attacked the summit of Charlie from 
Fox, but it was stopped by withering fire from King Hill and from enemy 
positions close to those of Company C on Charlie. Machine-gun fire from Conical 
Hill and mortar fire from the reverse slopes of Love were added as four 
Americans moved over the skyline and attacked Charlie's reverse slope. 
Company B was forced to withdraw. 

Some progress was made on 14 May. Company B attacked Charlie Hill 
again, securing a foothold on its northern end, and Company C extended its 
positions down Charlie's southern nose. Every man, however, in the platoon 
of Company A which attacked down the west side of Charlie was killed or 
injured. Another platoon from the same company tried unsuccessfully to take 
Fox Pinnacle. On the same day Company L, 3d Battalion, which on 13 May 
had taken up positions to seal the draw between Charlie and King Hills and 
thus close a gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions, attacked King and gained 
the entire crest. 

Although the reverse slopes of Charlie and King had not been reduced, 
an attack on Love Hill, a low, bare ridge running generally east and west, was 
launched on 16 May as part of a plan which was intended to clean out Charlie 
and put Company L on the western end of King to supply a base of fire. From 
Love Hill, fire could reach the reverse slope positions on the southwest side of 
Conical Hill and support the 382d Infantry's attack on Oboe. Because of the 
inherent strength of Love's defenses the attack did not succeed; nor was progress 
made on Charlie's southern slopes against the large number of caves, swarming 
with Japanese. Tanks helped a platoon of Company C to reach Love Hill but 
ran out of ammunition and withdrew. A murderous barrage, from an estimated 
fifty machine guns firing from Love itself and from Conical and Oboe Hills and 
the reverse slopes of King and Charlie, then hit the platoon. Six men, all of them 




CONICAL HILL and adjoining enemy positions to the north and west. 




EAST COAST FLATLANDS, over which the 184th Infantry, yth Division, advanced to 
Yonabaru after capture of the east slope of Conical Hill. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



355 



wounded, made their way back to the American lines that night; twenty were 
left on the objective. 

Before dawn on 20 May five more survivors, who had spent the intervening 
four days behind enemy lines, returned. One of them, Sgt. Donald B. Williams, 
had hidden in a cave to tend a wounded comrade. Enemy soldiers had fired a 
bazooka into the cave, and Williams had killed a Japanese who had tried to 
enter. Williams returned only after his comrade's condition was hopeless and 
he himself was growing weak for want of food and water. The other four men, 
Sgt. R. D. Turner, Pvt. William Schweneger, Pvt. Keith Cochran, and Pvt. 
Kenneth Boynton, the first two of whom were wounded, had stayed in a tomb 
near the foot of Love Hill. Their attempts to escape at night were thwarted by 
machine-gun and mortar fire trained on the tomb's entrance. On the second night 
four Okinawans — an old man, two old women, and a 10-year-old girl — had 
moved into the tomb with them, and one of the women went out and filled two 
of their canteens with water. On the fourth day a heavy American air strike hit 
the hill, and an American machine gun poured lead at a 3-inch opening in 
the tomb from a distance of 700 yards. The four members of Company C made 
their escape that night when loud singing and women's voices indicated that 
the Japanese near by were having a party. 

On 19 May Company E established itself on the western end of King Hill 
but was driven off by fire from Charlie and Love Hills and the reverse slope of 
King. Since the 96th Division had taken over this sector, more than 300 had 
been killed or wounded in trying to move down this series of hills. Constant 
attack and the use of tanks and demolitions had been unavailing, and the strain 
was beginning to tell on the troops. On 20 May -an air strike was run against the 
reverse slopes of Charlie, toward the American lines, but, although the planes 
dropped their 500-pound bombs accurately from an altitude of only a few yards, 
the Charlie pocket continued to withstand assault. It was still alive with Japanese, 
and supporting fire from Love Hill was deadly. Charlie pocket was not to be 
finally eliminated or Love Hill taken until 30 May, after nineteen days of bitter 
struggle. 

The Hole in the Di\e 

The 13th of May, hot and clear, was a turning point in the battle for Oki- 
nawa. On the two preceding days the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, had cleaned 
out Gaja Ridge and, by working south from Yonagusuku (Gaja) and the twin 
villages of Tobaru and Amaru, had opened the possibility of reaching Conical's 
peak from the north and northeast. On the 12th a toe hold had been gained on 



35 6 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



ConicaPs northern spur, which ran down to Tobaru and Amaru, and Company 
G had made an extensive reconnaissance and destroyed many enemy positions 
up the draw on the west side of this spur. When General Hodge read the 96th 
Division's report that evening, he immediately telephoned its commander, Gen- 
eral Bradley, and directed that the frontal assault on Conical Hill from the north 
be pushed. "We'll have the key to the Shuri line if he can make it," General 
Hodge told his associates. 30 

At 1 100 on the 13th General Buckner arrived at the observation post of Col- 
onel May, who had decided that the time was ripe for the assault on Conical Hill. 
Company F had spent the morning clearing Yonagusuku (Gaja) of Japanese 
who had infiltrated during the night; two platoons of tanks from Company B, 
763d Tank Battalion, working with Company E, had pounded enemy positions 
in Conical's northern slopes all morning; but Company G, attacking strong 
points west of Conical's northern spur, was prevented from climbing to the crest 
by fire from Charlie Hill in its rear and from Conical itself. Colonel May ordered 
Lt. Col. Lee Morris, 2d Battalion commander, to attack Conical frontally with 
Companies E and F and to have tanks move with the infantry up the hill. 

Two platoons of Company F on the left drove toward Conical's northeast 
spur and reached a series of boulders halfway up with surprising ease. The two 
platoon sergeants, T/Sgt. Guy J. Dale and T/Sgt. Dennis O. Duniphan, held 
a hasty consultation and decided to move up to the crest without waiting for 
orders from the company commander, 1st Lt. Owen R. O'Neill. By 1300 the 
men had reached the northeast crest of the ridge. 

Japanese reaction was intense. Knee-mortar fire fell on the two platoons as 
they dug in, and at 1525 a counterattack of at least company strength struck 
frontally and on Company F's exposed left flank. Sergeant Duniphan stood up 
and emptied a BAR into enemy soldiers ten feet away, then grabbed a rifle and 
continued to fire at the attackers. Lieutenant O'Neill sent a runner down the 
hill to order 1st Lt. Richard W. Frothinger, leader of the 2d Platoon, to come 
up immediately. Lieutenant Frothinger led his platoon up the hill in a headlong 
dash through hostile machine-gun fire. An American artillery spotting plane 
flying over Conical watched the fight and called for fire. Suddenly an over- 
whelming concentration of artillery air bursts and 4.2-inch mortar fire splattered 
the area just beyond the crest. The fire was perfectly timed, and the Japanese 
were repulsed. 



Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, p. 49. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



357 



Meanwhile Company E had climbed the eastern slopes of Conical's northern 
spur and the steep sides of the peak itself, taking positions on Company F's right, 
fifty yards east of Conical's peak. At dusk Company G dug in facing west along 
the northern spur; thus the lines extended continuously in a generally east-west 
direction high up on Conical's northern slopes. The eastern anchor of the Shuri 
line was weakening. The Japanese, having surmised correctly that the main 
effort against Conical Hill would be down the Charlie-King ridge line, had dis- 
posed their forces to meet the threat from that quarter. But the 383d Infantry 
had discovered and used a naturally stronger but less heavily defended avenue 
of approach; two American platoon leaders had taken the initiative and led 
their men up the hill at a moment of precious opportunity. 

South to Sugar Hill 

In what Colonel May called "the greatest display of courage of any group 
of men I have ever seen," two platoons of Company G, 383d Infantry, on 15 May 
moved up the northwest spur of Conical Hill from King Hill through extremely 
thick mortar fire. They dug in not far below Conical Peak. An earlier attempt 
by the company's reserve platoon to establish physical contact with the rest of 
the company from Conical's north spur around the base of the peak itself had 
been stymied when the six men engaged in the maneuver were all hit and 
tumbled seventy-five feet to the bottom of the peak. 

Tanks worked over Japanese positions on Conical's eastern slopes and ad- 
vanced as far south as the outskirts of Yonabaru on 16 May, and Company F 
secured slightly better positions, preparatory to a main attack down the east side 
of Conical Hill. On the following day the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, relieved 
Companies E and F of the 383d, placing all three regiments of the 96th Division 
in the line. If the fresh battalion succeeded in clearing the eastern slopes of 
Conical Hill, the 7th Division could be called from reserve to sweep down the 



coast and flank the Shuri line. | (See Map No. XLIII.) 



Sugar Hill, at the southern end of the 800-yard hogback that extended south 
from Conical's peak, was the objective of the 381st Infantry. On the eastern face 
of the hogback a number of finger ridges ran down into the Yonabaru coastal 
flats. Reducing the Japanese emplacements which covered the finger ridges 
from the west would be difficult, for the crest of the hogback would continue 
to be untenable because of fire from Love, Mike, and other hills to the west. 
It would be necessary to deny the crest to the enemy and to guard every inch of 
the military crest as soon as it was captured, to ward ofi Japanese attempts to 
establish positions on the skyline. 



358 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Second Lieutenant Leonard K. Warner, a Hawaiian, on 18 May led a 
platoon of Company K, 381st Infantry, down to the third finger ridge. On the 
way Lieutenant Warner had dashed up the second finger with two satchel 
charges and crossed the crest of the hogback to throw them into a heavy machine- 
gun emplacement. On the third finger the platoon was receiving heavy fire 
from its rear, chiefly from emplacements between the first and second fingers, 
when Lieutenant Warner's company commander called him and asked whether 
he could move on to Sugar Hill. 

"Hell yes," said Warner. "The way the Japs are shooting me in the back 
they'll chase me all the way down there." 31 

Fire from Cutaway Hill, a peak shaped like an eyetooth and located on the 
hogback two-thirds of the way between Sugar Hill and Conical's peak, added 
to the platoon's troubles, and it had to withdraw under smoke. An outpost line on 
the first finger was held during the night. During the day, tanks working from 
the flats had had a difficult time and in the end had been forced to withdraw 
by heavy fire from Chinen Peninsula. 

Lt. Col. Daniel A. Nolan, commander of the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, 
on 19 May sent fifteen men with demolitions to attack the enemy emplacements 
between the first and second fingers. After they failed in an attempt to climb 
the precipitous slope during the day, 2d Lt. Donald Walsh led the men after 
dark to the northernmost of the machine-gun positions. They killed its occu- 
pants and discovered that it commanded the Japanese defensive system on the 
reverse slopes of the Conical hogback. The enemy counterattacked persistently 
but unsuccessfully all night. On the next day the battalion engaged in fierce 
fighting southward to within 200 yards of Cutaway Hill, and Company L 
consolidated for the night between the second and third fingers. That night 
Company K secured the area between the peak of Conical Hill and the second 
finger, and fought bitter grenade battles with Japanese twenty yards away on 
the other side of the ridge line. On the 21st the company used 1,100 grenades in 
hanging on to its position. 

On 21 May, while Company L was heavily engaging the enemy on Cutaway 
Hill and on the hogback to the north of it, Companies I and F attacked across 
the heavily serrated ground on the east side of the hogback toward Sugar Hill. 
The men paused at each ridge to set up a base of fire and pound the reverse slopes 
of the next fold with hundreds of mortar shells, then moved on with tanks to 

31 Ibid., p. 10 1. 



THE MAY ATTACK ON THE SHURI DEFENSES 



359 



flush the Japanese from their caves and pillboxes. The company's 6o-mm. mor- 
tars and heavy machine guns, giving heavy and effective support, were advanced 
from ridge to ridge just behind the troops. Artillery fire pounded the reverse 
slopes of Sugar Hill and broke up a strong attempt to reinforce this position by 
small groups of enemy advancing from the southwest across open ground. 
Company F, on the right, had to send its men by individual rushes across the 
open fields below Cutaway Hill to the north slopes of Sugar. This company 
consolidated its lines on Sugar Hill, but plunging fire from Cutaway was to 
plague the men for a week. Company I captured the eastern part of Sugar with- 
out much difficulty, and Company G came up to strengthen the line against the 
anticipated counterattack. Company F took the brunt of the attack that night 
and killed fifty Japanese. The day's gain had cost the 381st Infantry 56 cas- 
ualties, but the regiment had disposed of 403 Japanese. 32 

All of Conical Hill's eastern slopes were now in American hands, and the 
7th Division could proceed down the corridor by Buckner Bay without molesta- 
tion from its right flank. The western side of Conical and the reverse slope of 
Cutaway remained firmly in the hands of the Japanese. 

The month of May saw major changes in the chain of command, involving 
a transfer of additional responsibility to Tenth Army. On 17 May Admiral 
Turner was replaced as Commander Task Force 51 by Admiral Harry W. Hill, 
who was to control the air defenses of Okinawa and the naval forces in the area. 
The Commanding General of Tenth Army now reported directly to Admiral 
Spruance. General Buckner was given command of all forces ashore, direct 
responsibility for the defense and development of captured positions in the 
Ryukyus area, and, to assist in this mission, operational command of Task 
Force 51. On 27 May Admiral Spruance was relieved as Commander Fifth 
Fleet by Admiral William F. Halsey, who commanded the Ryukyus operation 
until 27 June, when, with the formation of the Ryukyus Force, Tenth Army 
came directly under CINCPOA. 33 

82 Casualty figures from 381st Inf Jnl, Msg No. 65, 21 May 45. 

83 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7-III-21. 



CHAPTER XIV 



Battle in the Rain 

At the end of the third week of May the fighting had penetrated to the 
inner ring of the Shuri defenses. The Tenth Army's hopes had been raised by 
the capture of the eastern slopes of Conical Hill, which, permitting the 7th 
Division to funnel through the corridor by Buckner Bay, opened up the 
possibility of an envelopment of the enemy forces. But the bid for envelopment 
was destined to fail. From 22 to 29 May, except for certain gains on the flanks, 
there was no appreciable progress against any part of the Japanese inner defense 
ring. The enemy line held with hardly a dent against every attack. 

The stalemate was due in large measure to rain, mud, and the bogging 
down of all heavy equipment. The weather during April and thus far into 
May had been unexpectedly good; there had been far less rain than preinvasion 
meteorological tables had predicted. But now the days of grace from the skies 
were over: the heavens were about to open and the much talked-about "plum 
rains" of Okinawa were to set in and continue day after day. Mud was to 
become king, and it was impossible to mount a large-scale attack during this 
period. 

Enemy Air Attacks 

While the ground fighting was largely stalemated by rain, the air battle 
between the Americans on Okinawa and the enemy pilots from the Japanese 
home islands went on unceasingly. Despite their failure in April to destroy the 
invading American fleet, the Japanese air forces in May kept on unremittingly 
with their attacks. They were directed against two targets — the ships off shore 
and the airfields on Ie Shima and at Yontan and Kadena. During the latter 
half of May the Japanese air attacks on these targets reached a peak and included 
some of the severest strikes which the enemy delivered during the air fighting 
of the entire campaign. The American Tactical Air Force not only engaged in 
routine support of the ground forces — a support limited in effectiveness by the 
location of the enemy in deep underground positions — but also attempted to ward 
off the Japanese air attacks from the home islands. Thunderbolts and Corsairs 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



3 61 



of the Tactical Air Force made daily sweeps over the waters between Okinawa 
and southern Kyushu, intercepting enemy planes, and often continuing over 
Kyushu to bomb, rocket, and strafe targets there. From Guam, Saipan, and 
Tinian in the Marianas the strategic heavy bombing of the Japanese home 
islands went on concurrently without let-up. 1 

Japanese air raids reached a peak during the latter part of May. On the 
20th, thirty-five planes raided the American fleet ; twenty-three were shot down. 
On 22 and 23 May, Japanese planes came over Okinawa again. Beginning on 

24 May, the enemy stepped up the tempo of the attack on American units 
ashore and afloat. The evening of the 24th was perfect bombing weather with 
a clear sky and full moon. The air alerts started about 2000 and it was 2400 
before an all-clear sounded. In that interval there were seven distinct air raids 
on Okinawa. In the first raid planes penetrated through to bomb Yontan and 
Kadena. The third, fourth, and sixth groups of raiders also succeeded in 
dropping bombs on the airfields. 

The seventh group consisted of five low-flying two-engine bombers, called 
"Sallys," that came in about 2230 from the direction of Ie Shima. Antiaircraft 
batteries immediately engaged them, and four planes crashed in flames near 
Yontan airfield. The fifth came in and made a belly landing, wheels up, on the 
northeast-southwest runway of Yontan. At least eight heavily armed Japanese 
rushed out of the plane and began tossing grenades and incendiaries into 
American aircraft parked along the runway. They destroyed 2 Corsairs, 4 C-54 
transports, and 1 Privateer. Twenty-six other planes — 1 Liberator bomber, 3 
Hellcats, and 22 Corsairs — were damaged. 

In the wild confusion that followed the landing of the Japanese airborne 
troops, two Americans were killed and eighteen injured. At 2338, forces 
arrived at Yontan to bolster the air-ground service units and to be on hand if 
enemy airborne troops made subsequent attempts to land. In addition to the 
thirty-three planes destroyed and damaged, two 600-drum fuel dumps con- 
taining 70,000 gallons of gasoline were ignited and destroyed by the Japanese. 
When a final survey could be made, it was found that ten Japanese had been 
killed at Yontan; three others were found dead in the plane, evidently killed 

1 The account of the air battles was taken from Comdr Fifth Amph Force, Report of Capture of 
Okinawa Gunto, 17 May-21 Jun 45, 4 Jul 45, II, 5-6; III, 9-44; IV, 2, 3; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns 
in POA, May 1945; Tenth Army G-3 Jnl and G-2 Periodic Rpts, 24 May-3 Jun 45; XXIV Corps G-2 
Periodic Rpts, 23—31 May; G-2 Weekly Summary No. 1 1, 20-26 May 45; 53d AAA Brigade Unit Rpt No. 34, 

25 May 45. 



362 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



by antiaircraft fire. The other four "Sallys" each carried fourteen Japanese 
soldiers, all of whom died in the flaming wrecks. Sixty-nine bodies in all were 
counted. A Japanese soldier killed at Zampa Point the next day was thought to 
be the last of the airborne raiders. Yontan airfield was nonoperational until 
0800 of 25 May because of the debris on the runway. This was the enemy's only 
attempt to land airborne troops on Okinawa during the battle. 

While the attack on Yontan was in progress, twenty-three enemy planes 
conducted a raid against the field at Ie Shima. The bombing did not seriously 
damage the field itself but caused sixty casualties. During the night, antiaircraft 
fire shot down eleven enemy planes over Okinawa and sixteen over Ie Shima. 

The air assault of 24-25 May was not confined to the airfields of Okinawa 
and Ie Shima. At the same time a large Kamikaze attack was under way against 
American ships. It was estimated the next day that 200 enemy planes had 
engaged in the attack. The enemy scored thirteen Kamikaze hits on twelve 
ships off shore. In repelling an attack during the morning of 25 May, American 
fighter planes intercepted and destroyed seventy-five enemy planes north of 
Okinawa. Altogether, on 24-25 May, more than 170 Japanese planes were 
brought down. During the week ending 26 May, the Japanese lost at least 193 
planes in the Okinawa area. 

The period of torrential rains was interrupted on 27-28 May by a night of 
clear weather with a bright moon. The Japanese air force and Kamikazes again 
came in force. Between 0730 of 27 May and 0830 of 28 May there were 56 
raids of from 2 to 4 planes each, the total of enemy planes being estimated at 
150. A vigorous effort was made by the enemy to penetrate the transport defense 
area and reach the heavy ships. The Kamikazes struck at both the Hagushi 
area and at Buckner Bay, which was now coming into use as an important 
anchorage. During the night of 27-28 May nine ships were hit by Kamikazes. 
One of them, the destroyer Drexler, hit at 0705 on 28 May, sank within two 
minutes. Including the Kamikazes, 114 enemy planes were destroyed during 
this attack. There were only two other Kamikaze attacks during the rest of the 
campaign, at the beginning and the end of June, both of much smaller scale 
than any preceding. 

The total Japanese air effort was far greater than that encountered in any 
other Pacific operation. The proximity of airfields in Kyushu and Formosa per- 
mitted the employment by the enemy of all types of planes and pilots. Altogether, 
there were 896 air raids against Okinawa. Approximately 4,000 Japanese planes 
were destroyed in combat, 1,900 of which were suicide planes. The intensity and 




JAPANESE AIR RAIDS ON OKINAWA were stepped up the last wee\ of May. Above, 
Japanese plane caught squarely by antiaircraft fire leaves a trail of smo\e and flame as it 
falls toward the ocean. Picture below was taken after unsuccessful Japanese airborne raid 
on Yontan airfield the morning of 25 May. Bodies of the enemy "Commandos" are scat- 
tered around wreckage of their planes. Torn fuselage of one "Sally" is in left background. 




364 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



scale of the Japanese suicide air attacks on naval forces and shipping were the 
most spectacular aspects of the Okinawa campaign. Between 6 April and 22 June 
there were ten organized Kamikaze attacks, employing a total of 1,465 planes 
as shown below: 2 



Date of Attac\ 


Total 




AvtYiy Plw. 


6-7 April 


355 


230 


125 




185 


125 


60 




165 


120 


45 




ir 5 


65 


5° 


3-4 Ma Y 


I2 5 


75 


5° 




15° 


70 


80 




165 


65 


100 


27-28 May 


110 


60 


50 


3-7 J une 


5° 


20 


3° 




45 


3° 


x 5 


TOTAL 


i4 6 5 


860 


605 



In addition, sporadic small-scale suicide attacks were directed against the Amer- 
ican fleet by both Army and Navy planes, bringing the total number of suicide 
sorties during the campaign to 1,900. 

The violence of the air attacks is indicated by the damage inflicted on the 
American forces. Twenty-eight ships were sunk and 225 damaged by Japanese 
air action during the campaign. Destroyers sustained more hits than any other 
class of ships. Battleships, cruisers, and carriers also were among those struck, 
some of the big naval ships suffering heavy damage with great loss of life. The 
radar picket ships, made up principally of destroyers and destroyer escorts, 
suffered proportionately greater losses than any other part of the fleet. The great 
majority of ships sunk or damaged were victims of the Kamikaze. Suicide planes 
accounted for 26 of the 28 vessels sunk and for 164 of the 225 damaged by air 
attack during the entire campaign. 

Stalemate in the Center 

It was in the center, where during the preceding week the Americans had 
made least progress, that the impeding effect of the rains of the last week in May 
was most clearly shown. Having gained no break-through or momentum in the 

1 U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific), Naval Analysis Division, The Campaigns of the Pacific War 
(Washington, 1946), Ch. XIV. 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



365 



previous fighting, the troops found it impossible under the conditions to resume 
the offensive effectively. 

On the morning of 22 May the 1st Marine Division held a line which 
extended over the northern and southern slopes of Wana Ridge, south through 
the village of Wana. To its left, holding the western flank of the XXIV Corps 
line, was the 77th Division, which had just secured Chocolate Drop. Left of the 
77th Division, the 96th Division had recently completed the capture of Sugar 
Hill and was on the slopes of Oboe. |(See Map No. XLTvI 

The 1 st Marine Division at Wana Ridge and Wana Draw 

When the heavy rains began the 1st Marines was on the northern slope of 
Wana Ridge, at the left (east) flank of the III Amphibious Corps. The 5th 
Marines was on the division right, holding the lower crest of Wana Ridge, with 
its line extending on over the southern slope into Wana village. Beyond the vil- 
lage of Wana lay Wana Draw, a broad, shallow basin, entirely bare, which 
dropped down from the coral heights west of northern Shuri to the Asa River 
and the coastal plain north of Naha. On the south side of Wana Draw a high 
coral ridge, similar to Wana Ridge on the north, climbed steeply to Shuri Heights 
at the southwestern corner of Shuri. Wana Draw was completely exposed to 
enemy fire from high ground on three sides. 

The 1 st Marine Division had been repeatedly thrown back since its first 
attack on Wana Ridge, 13 May. 3 Yet during most of this 9-day period the 
weather had been dry and the ground solid, making possible a coordinated 
attack of all arms — infantry, tanks, heavy assault guns, armored flame throwers, 
and airplanes. On 21 May the weather changed, with gusts of wind and an 
overcast that reduced visibility. Before dawn of the next day the rain began, and 
it continued throughout most of the day and on into the night. The prospects of 
success for the infantry alone, slogging through the mud without the support 
of other arms, were not encouraging. 

The almost continual downpour filled Wana Draw with mud and water 
until it resembled a lake. Tanks bogged down, helplessly mired. Amphibian 
tractors were unable to negotiate the morass, and front-line units, which had 
depended on these vehicles for carrying supplies forward in bad weather, now 
had to resort to hand carrying of supplies and of the wounded. These were back- 
breaking tasks and were performed over areas swept by enemy fire. Mortar and 

3 The account of operations of the ist Mar Div at Wana Ridge is taken from Stockman, ist Mar Div 
Hist, and ist Mar Div Special Actn Rpt, pp. 6-7. 



3 66 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



artillery smoke was used as far as possible to give concealment for all movement. 
Litter cases were carried back through knee-deep mud. 

Living conditions of front-line troops were indescribably bad. Foxholes dug 
into the clay slopes caved in from the constant soaking, and, even when the sides 
held, the holes had to be bailed out repeatedly. Clothes and equipment and the 
men's bodies were wet for days. The bodies of Japanese killed at night lay outside 
the foxholes, decomposing under swarms of flies. Sanitation measures broke 
down. The troops were often hungry. Sleep was almost impossible. The strain 
began to take a mounting toll of men. 

Under these conditions the Marine attack against Wana Ridge was soon at 
a standstill. The action degenerated into what was called in official reports 
"aggressive patrolling." Despite inactivity, enemy mortar and artillery fire con- 
tinued to play against the American front lines, especially at dusk and at night. 

A break in the weather came on the morning of 28 May. The sky was clear. 
The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, acting on a favorable report of a patrol that had 
reconnoitered the ground the day before, made ready to strike for 100 Meter 
Hill, or Knob Hill as it was sometimes called, at the eastern tip of Wana Ridge. 
As soon as this objective was gained, the 3d Battalion was to secure Wana Draw. 
Twice the 2d Battalion assaulted 100 Meter Hill, and by 0800 Company E reached 
the top. But the crest could not be held, and no gain at all was made down the 
southern and eastern slopes. Machine-gun fire from three directions hit the 
marines, mortar shells fell on them, and Japanese only a few yards away mounted 
satchel charges on sticks and flung them from close range. The attack failed, and 
smoke had to be employed to evacuate the wounded. 

Meanwhile, on 28 May, the 5th Marines on the division right captured 
Beehive Hill, a strong enemy defense position on the lower end of Shuri Ridge 
south of Wana Draw. 
The yyth Division Stands Still at Shuri 

The 77th Division fared no better than did the 1st Marine Division. Its 
capture on 20 May of Flattop and the Chocolate Drop area was followed very 
quickly by the onset of the heavy rains. Thereafter the 77th Division made 
hardly any gains in its part of the line, directly in front of Shuri. Here the 
Japanese stood more stubbornly, if possible, than anywhere else, and held de- 
fiantly every muddy knob and slope. Jane (also called "Three Sisters"), Dorothy, 
and Tom Hills formed the main strong points directly north and east of 
Shuri from which the enemy faced the 77th Division across the rain-drenched 
country. Dorothy Hill was a fortress with several layers of caves and tunnels 




WANA DRAW, from east end of Wana Ridge, showing open ground over which marines 
advanced. Bottom of draw, with town of Wana 100 feet to the right, was flooded at time 
of the battle. Below is ground over which marines attached 28 May. They captured 
"Beehive" but were unable to hold "Knob." Ruins of Ishimmi, east of the Marine zone, 
are at upper right. 





MUD AND FLOOD increased the difficulties of fighting on Okinawa. Above, yjth 
Division infantrymen trudge toward the front lines past mud-clogged tan\s. Below, ist 
Division marines resort to hand carrying of supplies and wounded as roads are washed out 
by torrential rains. 




BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



369 



on its reverse slope and with heavy artillery and mortars concentrated behind 
its protecting bulk. The next objective of the 307th Infantry of the 77th Division 
was the Three Sisters, 400 yards across a low bare swale from Flattop. Farther 
to the west the 306th Infantry, which had relieved the 305th Infantry on 21 
May, stood on Ishimmi Ridge and in front of the eastern end of Wana Ridge, 
which had proved so tough a barrier to the 1st Marine Division. 

As a result of an ill-fated attack early in the morning of 21 May, Company 
A of the 307th Infantry was isolated along the bottom of the forward slope of 
Jane Hill, ahead of the rest of the troops back on Flattop and Ishimmi Ridge, 
with an exposed valley raked by enemy mortar and machine-gun fire between 
the troops and their base of supplies. All roads leading to the 307th front had 
become impassable, and over the last 1,000 yards everything had to be hand 
carried. As many men were lost in trying to bring supplies up to Company A 
across this muddy swale as were lost in the fighting on Jane Hill. 4 In these 
circumstances life was not pleasant on the lower slope of the hill, where foxholes 
were washed out in the yellow clay almost daily. Company A was virtually cut 
of! at Jane Hill from 21 to 30 May. 

The last week of May points up the importance of logistics to the battle. 
In this instance, mud defeated local logistics. Ammunition, water, and food 
had to be hand carried up from the rear for distances as great as a mile. Casualties 
had to be carried back, eight men struggling and slipping in mud up to their 
knees with each litter. Weapons were dirty and wet. In a second or two, mortar 
shells could be expended that had taken a man a half-day to bring to the weapon 
from the nearest vehicle or dump. Under these conditions there could be no 
attack. The men had all they could do to live. Their time was entirely taken 
in meeting the fundamental needs of existence. Hard fighting during the last 
third of May was impossible for men who were already exhausted. The troops 
simply tried to stay where they were. The front had everywhere bogged down 
in mud. 

The 96th Division at Oboe 

Like the 77th Division troops, elements of the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, 
holding positions at the foot of Hen Hill, just across the boundary from the 
77th Division, were unable to move from their mud foxholes. The Japanese 
had perfect observation of this area from Tom Hill, just east of Shuri, and 
brought down mortar and machine-gun fire on any activity. There was little 

* Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 442. 



370 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



movement except for an occasional patrol. Mud, low supplies, and drooping 
spirits prevailed here too. 

To the east the lines of the 382d Infantry crossed over the jaw-like clay 
promontory of Oboe, which stood like a rampart a thousand yards east of 
Shuri. On 21 May bitter fighting had placed elements of the 382d Infantry on 
the lip of Oboe. For the next week the crest of Oboe was a no-man's land, 
and around it, and even down the forward face, supposedly in American 
hands, a close and unending grenade and bitter hand-to-hand fight raged. 
Here, more than anywhere else on the cross-island line during the period of 
mud, action was always near at hand. Here it was hardest to maintain the 
status quo described by Lt. Col. Howard L. Cornutt, Assistant G-3 of the 96th 
Division, when he stated ironically: "Those on the forward slopes of hills slid 
down; those on the reverse slopes slid back. Otherwise, no change." 5 

An hour after midnight, in the morning of 24 May, a platoon of Japanese 
started through a gap between Companies C and L on Oboe and succeeded in 
knocking out the three right-hand foxholes of Company C. The light mortars 
of the 1st Battalion were at the base of Oboe, and when the attack developed 
they fired into the gap between the companies for the next four hours at the 
rate of a round and a half a minute. Communication lines were out: enemy 
mortars had cut every phone line, and the radio to the Navy had been drowned 
out by the rain. Artillery and illumination by the Navy could not be called over 
the area. By 0330 a full company of Japanese was attacking through the gap, 
and two platoons were assaulting Company A on the left of Company C. In 
the foxhole next to the three that had been knocked out by the Japanese, Pfc. 
Delmar Schriever, though wounded by mortar fire which killed the other two 
men in the foxhole with him, held his position single-handed until morning. 
Companies A and B were forced back ofT Oboe to the bottom, but the few men 
left in Company C remained near the top under the courageous leadership of 
Pfc. John J. Kwiecien, who took over command of the 1st Platoon when the 
platoon leader was wounded. In the 2d Platoon on the right only one man out 
of fourteen was unwounded when daylight came. These men on Oboe had used 
thirty-five cases of grenades during the night; only fifty rounds of 60-mm. 
mortar remained. By 0530 the foxholes on the right of Company C at the crest 
of Oboe had been won back from the Japanese. At this time Japanese were seen 

6 The account of operations of the 96th Division at Oboe Hill was taken from Mulford and Rogers, 
96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 141-44; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII; 382c! Inf Actn Rpt, Ch. VII. 



"THREE SISTERS," photographed 6 May after the area had been saturated by American 
artillery fire. Radio towers ( upper left ) were destroyed later in May. 




OBOE hill mass was under attac\ by JJth Division artillery when this picture was ta\en 
23 May. Muddy reverse slope of Zebra (foreground) is pitted with foxholes; some shelters 
can be seen in defilade at foot of Oboe. 



372 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



forming for another attack, but a timely resupply of mortar ammunition en- 
abled the embattled troops to repel this effort. During the Japanese counterattack 
against Oboe the 362d Field Artillery Battalion fired 560 rounds of shells in 
helping to stem the enemy onslaught. 

When the Japanese attack subsided, 150 enemy dead lay on top of Oboe 
and on the slope immediately beyond. The Japanese dug in on the reverse slope 
of Oboe only twenty-five yards from the American foxholes. Between the two 
dug-in forces, on 24 May, there was an interchange of hand grenades all day long. 

The heavy losses incurred by the 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, in repelling 
this furious Japanese night assault compelled a reorganization of the battalion. 
The three rifle companies, A, B, and C, were combined into one company under 
the Company C commander, with a total strength of 198 officers and enlisted 
men. This is another example of how battalions were reduced to company 
strength at Shuri. On 24 May General Bradley, the 96th Division commander, 
ordered the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, to take over the left part of the line 
of the 2d Battalion, 382d, on Oboe. The ranks of the 2d Battalion had become 
too thin to withstand another attack like that of 24 May. 

Efforts of the 383d Infantry to make inroads into the Love Hill system of 
defenses on the western side of Conical all failed during the period 22-28 May. 
Many men were killed during patrol action while searching for a weak spot 
in the enemy's lines. Nor could American troops move over the crest of the 
Conical hogback to the west slope without risking their lives. In the neigh- 
borhood of Cutaway Hill especially, the enemy constantly reinforced his lines 
and kept on the alert. No gains toward Shuri were registered in any part of 
this region lying west of the crest of Conical. The enemy held tight. Thus mat- 
ters stood along the center of the XXIV Corps front at the end of the month 
of May. 

The 6th Marine Division Occupies Naha 

During the rainy period at the end of May, both flanks of the American 
line forged ahead of the center. This development was a continuation of a trend 
that had started in the third week of May. In that week two ramparts of the 
three hills that made up the integrated Sugar Loaf position — Sugar Loaf itself 
and the Horseshoe — had fallen after as bloody a period of fighting as the 
marines had ever encountered. However, the efforts of the 6th Marine Division 
to complete the reduction of Sugar Loaf, the left (west) anchor of the Japanese 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



373 



line, failed; on 21 May, after five days of fighting, they gave up their attempt to 
take the reverse (south) slope of the Crescent, the third and closest to Shuri of 
the Sugar Loaf hills. 

For several days after Sugar Loaf fell, the 6th Marine Division continued 
its efforts to reduce Crescent, the easternmost strong point of the Sugar Loaf 
sector, but without success. The Japanese denied American troops control of 
the crest and retained complete possession of the crescent-shaped reverse slope. 
As long as this ground remained in Japanese hands there could be no swinging 
eastward by the 6th Marine Division for close envelopment of Shuri. After con- 
sidering the prospect the division decided to abandon its efforts to force the 
fall of Crescent and instead to press on toward Naha and the Kokuba River. A 
strong defense force was left on the north face of Crescent to protect the left rear 
and to maintain contact with the 1st Marine Division to the east. The main 
effort of the Army's right (west) flank was now toward Naha and no longer 
immediately toward Shuri. 6 

The 6th Marine Division Crosses the Asato 

The heavy rains had raised the Asato River when patrols on the night of 
22-23 May waded the river upstream from Naha to reconnoiter the south bank. 
The initial reports were that it would be feasible to cross the stream without 
tank support. Between dawn and 1000, 23 May, patrols pressed 400 yards south 
of the river under moderate fire. At 1000 the decision was made to cross in force 
at 1200 by infiltration. An hour and a half after the movement began two bat- 
talions were across the Asato under cover of smoke. Casualties had to be evac- 
uated back across the stream by hand, twelve men carrying each stretcher in 
chest-deep water. 

Throughout the night of 23-24 May the 6th Engineer Battalion labored to 
build a crossing for vehicles. Borrowing from experience at Guadalcanal, five 
LVT's were brought to the stream and efforts made to move them into position 
to serve as piers for bridge timbers. Two of the LVT's struck mines along the 
bank and were destroyed, and the effort to bridge the stream in this manner 
was abandoned. At dawn a Bailey bridge was started, and by 1430 it had been 
finished. A tank crossing was ready before dark. The same day two squads of 
the Reconnaissance Company crossed the lower Asato and roamed the streets 
of northwestern Naha without meeting resistance. 

6 The account of operations of the 6th Mar Div was, unless otherwise indicated, taken from 6th Mar 
Div Special Actn Rpt, Phase III, pp. 11-15; Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, pp. 122-36. 




CROSSING THE ASATO RIVER, marines laid smo\e to cover their advance at Machishi 
23 May. Destroyed bridges ( circled ) had not been replaced at time picture was made. 
Eastern Naha and Ko\uba estuary are at upper right. 




ENTERING NAHA, Marine patrols move through deserted streets in the western part of 
town. The walled compounds around the houses, typical of Oriental urban structures, 
gave good cover for snipers. 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



375 



The Occupation of Naha 

The unmolested patrols into Naha on 24 May led to the crossing of the 
lower Asato on 25 May by the Reconnaissance Company of the 6th Marine 
Division, which during the day penetrated deep into Naha west of the north- 
south canal that bisects the city. Only an occasional Japanese straggler was met; 
sniper fire was almost nonexistent. A few Okinawan civilians who were still 
hiding in the rubble of the city said they had seen only scattered 5- or 6-man 
Japanese patrols during the past week. 7 The rubble of Naha was deserted. The 
Reconnaissance Company dug in without packs and gear to hold the gain so 
easily obtained. 

Naha had no tactical value other than to afford the Americans a route of 
travel southward to the next objective. The city was located in a wide coastal 
flat at the mouth of the Kokuba River; it was dominated by the high ground 
of the Oroku Peninsula across the channel to the south, and by a ridge that 
curved around the city and coastal flat from the northeast to southwest along 
the Kokuba estuary. 

On 27 May one company of the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, crossed the 
Asato, passed through the lines of the Reconnaissance Company, and pressed 
deeper into the western part of Naha. The next morning at daylight the marines 
moved on toward the Kokuba estuary; reaching it at 0900, they received hardly 
a shot as they picked their way among the demolished buildings and the 
heaps of debris. The effort of a platoon to press forward to scout the situation 
at the approaches to Ona-Yama Island, which lies in the middle of the Kokuba 
Channel opposite the south end of the Naha Canal, failed. The marines were 
met by heavy machine-gun fire, and in their withdrawal the platoon leader was 
killed. All of Naha west of the canal and north of Kokuba was now in possession 
of the marines. Steps were taken quickly to defend this portion of the city. 
Eight 37-mm. antitank guns were ranged along the sea wall bordering the 
north bank of the Kokuba estuary, and a line of marines took up positions behind 
the sea wall. The 1st Armored Amphibious Battalion held and patrolled the 
seaward side of the city. 

During the night of 28 May engineers put three footbridges across the 
canal, and before dawn the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, crossed to Telegraph 
Hill in east Naha, where a fight raged throughout the day without noticeable 
gains. On 30 May the 2d and 3d Battalions, 22d Marines, crossed the canal, 

7 Tenth Army G-3 Jnl, Msg No. 25, 28 May 45. 



376 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



passed through the ist Battalion, and took up the assault. Enemy machine guns 
emplaced in burial tombs on Hill 27 in east Naha temporarily checked the in- 
fantry. During most of the day tanks were unable to reach the position, but in the 
afternoon three worked their way along the road north of the hill, and their 
direct fire enabled the marines to seize it. 
The Kokuba Hills 

The Kokuba Hills extend eastward from the edge of Naha along the 
north side of the Kokuba estuary and the Naha-Yonabaru valley. They guard 
the southern and southwestern approaches to the rear of Shuri. With the 6th 
Marine Division pressing south along the west coast, defense of this terrain 
was vital to the enemy in preventing an envelopment of Shuri from Naha. 
On the night of 22-23 May the headquarters of the Japanese 44th Independent 
Mixed Brigade moved from Shuri to Shichina village, in the Kokuba Hills, 
for better control of the operations on this flank. 8 The Japanese upon evacuating 
Naha took positions in the high ground in the eastern part of the city and 
the semicircle of hills beyond. There the fight on the enemy's left flank entered 
its next phase. 

Since the crossing of the upper Asato on 23 May, the left (east) elements 
of the 6th Marine Division had encountered continuing opposition. The 4th 
Marines held this part of the line, and suffered heavy casualties as it tried to 
press forward in the mud of the flooded valley and low clay hills. By the night 
of 25 May Company E had been reduced to forty enlisted men and one officer. 
That day the ist Battalion took the village of Machishi, but with bridges washed 
out and the torrential rains making the terrain impassable for tanks it was 
learned that infantry could go ahead only with heavy casualties. On 28 May the 
29th Marines relieved the 4th Marines, and, although opposed by enemy small- 
arms fire, by the close of the day it had pressed to within 800 yards of the 
Kokuba River. 

Both the 22d and the 29th Marines were now attacking east against the 
hill mass centering on Hill 46, west of Shichina village and north of the Kokuba 
estuary. After the fall of Hill 27 on 30 May there was a rapid advance of several 
hundred yards until the defenses of Hill 46 were reached. Then another intensive 
battle was fought in the rain and mud. Fourteen tanks clawed their way into 
firing position on the last day of the month and put direct fire into the enemy. 
Even then intense machine-gun and mortar fire denied the hill to a strong 

8 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4, 1 Aug 45: The 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



377 



coordinated attack, although large gains were made. Throughout the night 
American artillery pounded Hill 46. The next morning, on 1 June, the assault 
regiments took the hill, broke through the Shichina area, and then seized 
Hill 98 and the line of the north fork of the Kokuba. 

The yth Division Bids for Envelopment 

When elements of the 96th Division seized the east face of Conical Hill 
and of Sugar Hill at the southern end of the Conical hogback, a path was 
cleared for the execution of a flanking maneuver around the right end of the 
Japanese line. The flanking force, once through the corridor and past Yonabaru, 
could sweep to the west up the Yonabaru valley and encircle Shuri from the 
rear. The main force of the Japanese army would then be trapped. This was 
the plan which the XXIV Corps was ready to put into effect when night fell 
on 21 May. 9 

Funneling Through the Conical Corridor 

Strengthened by 1,691 replacements and 546 men returned to duty from 
hospitals since it left the lines on 9 May, the 7th Division moved up to forward 
assembly areas just north of Conical Hill and prepared to make the dash through 
the corridor. At 1900 on 21 May the 184th Infantry, chosen by General Arnold 
to lead the way, was in place at Gaja Ridge, at the northern base of Conical. The 
initial move of the envelopment was to be made in the dead of the night and in 
stealth. 10 General Buckner felt that "if the 7th can swing round, running the 
gauntlet, it may be the kill." 11 

Rain began to fall an hour before Company G, 184th Infantry, the lead 
element, was scheduled to leave its assembly area. The rain increased rapidly 
until it was a steady downpour. Up to 0200 on 22 May, the hour of departure, the 
men huddled under their ponchos listening to the dull, heavy reverberations of 
the artillery preparation, which sounded even louder and nearer in the rain. 
Then, in single column, the company headed south through the black night, the 

"Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 415ft. After the battle for Okinawa General Hodge stated 
that he had planned to use the 7th Division in such a maneuver even before the division had been relieved 
and before the attack of 11 May. See, however, Okinawa Diary, XXIV Corps, kept by Capt. Donald Mulford, 
13-20 May 45, which indicates that General Hodge was even at that date somewhat uncertain about the 
maneuver. 

10 The account of operations of the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, through the coastal corridor was, 
unless otherwise indicated, taken from Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 292-313. 

11 Notes of Tenth Army Staff Meeting, 20 May 45, in Okinawa Diary kept by Lt Col Stevens and M/Sgt 
Burns. 



37 8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



rain, and the sludge. No one fired as two Japanese dodged into the shadows and 
the debris of Yonabaru, and at 0415 the company formed at a crossroads in the 
ruined town, platoons abreast, ready to push on to Spruce Hill. It accomplished 
this advance without incident. Once on the crest of Spruce Hill, Company G 
sent up a flare signaling Company F to come through and try to reach Chestnut 
Hill. 

Daylight, a dull and murky gray, had come when Company F reached the 
crest of Chestnut, 435 feet above the coast 1,000 yards southeast of Yonabaru. 
Only one man was wounded in this phase of the assault. As Company F reached 
the crest of Chestnut and looked down over the southern slope, several enemy 
soldiers were spotted climbing the hill, apparently to take up defense positions. 
A soldier said as he looked at them that they "had better hold reveille a little 
earlier." Complete surprise had crowned the American effort. It was learned 
later that the Japanese command had not expected the Americans to make a 
night attack or to attack at all when tank and heavy-weapons support were 
immobilized by rain and mud. 12 

The 3d Battalion followed the 2d through Yonabaru. It then began advanc- 
ing to the south toward Juniper and Bamboo Hills on a line southwest of Chest- 
nut, the other high ground which the 184th was to seize before it would be con- 
sidered safe for the 32d Infantry to come through the corridor and turn west to 
cut behind Shuri. The attack continued on the rainy morning of 23 May, with 
the 2d and 3d Battalions pressing forward to these initial objectives. At the end 
of the day, except for a small gap between Company G on Juniper Hill and 
Company L on Bamboo Hill, the 184th Infantry had won a solid line stretching 
from the seacoast across the southern slope of Chestnut Hill and then across to 
Juniper and Bamboo. In two rainy days the 184th had forced a 2,000-yard crack 
in the enemy's defenses south of Yonabaru and accomplished its mission. Now 
the 32d Infantry could begin the second and decisive phase of the enveloping 
plan. 

The 32d Infantry Attempts an Envelopment 

While the 184th Infantry held the blocking line from Chestnut to Bamboo 
and thus protected the left flank and rear, the 32d Infantry was to drive directly 
west along the Naha-Yonabaru valley to cut off Shuri from the south. The success 
of the entire plan of encirclement depended upon the 32d Infantry's carrying 
out its part. 

12 Interrog Yahara. 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



379 



On 22 May, while the 184th Infantry was pressing south, Company F of 
the 32a! Infantry moved to the southern tip of Conical Hill, just west of Yona- 
baru, to help protect the right side of the passage. The main body of the 32d 
Infantry, however, did not start moving until the morning of 23 May, after 
Colonel Green of the 184th Infantry radioed that his attack was going well and 
that it would be safe for the 32d to proceed. At 1045 on 23 May the 2d Battalion, 
32d Infantry, passed through Yonabaru and headed west. Its initial objective 
was the string of hills west of Yonabaru and south of the Naha- Yonabaru road, 
centering on Oak Hill just below the village of Yonawa. By nightfall two bat- 
talions, the 2d and 3d, were deployed a mile southwest of Yonabaru facing west, 
ready to make their bid for envelopment. Already heavy machine-gun fire had 
slowed the advance and served notice that the enemy would bitterly oppose a 
drive up the Yonabaru valley. The continuing rains had by this time mired the 
tanks in their assembly areas north of Conical Hill, and the armor which com- 
manders had counted on to spearhead the drive to the west was unable to func- 
tion. Heavy assault guns likewise were immobilized. The infantry was on its 
own. 13 

During 24 May the 32d Infantry developed the line where the Japanese 
meant to check the westward thrust of the 7th Division. This line ran south from 
Mouse Hill (southwest of Conical Hill), crossed the Naha-Yonabaru road 
about a mile west of Yonabaru, and then bent slightly southwest to take in 
June and Mabel Hills, the latter being the key to the position. Mabel Hill 
guarded the important road center of Chan, which lay two miles almost directly 
south of Shuri. Oak Hill, an enemy strong point, was somewhat in front of this 
line. Tactically, it was apparent that this line protected the Shuri-Chan- 
Karadera-Kamizato-Iwa road net, the easternmost of two routes of withdrawal 
south from Shuri. 

The Japanese reacted slowly to the initial penetration below Yonabaru. 
Mortar and artillery fire, however, gradually increased. The scattered groups 
of second-class troops encountered plainly did not have the skill and determi- 
nation of the soldiers manning the Shuri line. On 23 May elements of the Jap- 
anese 24th Division were dispatched from Shuri to retake Yonabaru. 14 This 
effort took shape in numerous counterattacks on the night of 24-25 May against 
the 184th Infantry, which had just secured a lodgment on Locust Hill, a high, 

13 The account of operations of 32c! Infantry was, unless otherwise indicated, taken from Gugeler, 
7th Div History, pp. 313-14, 320-27, 345-49, 362-66; 32d Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 23, 28. 

14 Interrog Yahara. 




EAST COAST CORRIDOR, looking north along Highway 13 from Yonabaru. Conical 
Hill is just to left of Gaja. 




YONABARU-NAHA VALLEY highway, with Yonawa and Oa\ Hill in foreground. 
Picture was ta\en 26 May as Jth Division infantrymen pressed bac\ the enemy' s right flan\ 
below Shun. 



BATTLE IN THE RAIN 



3 8i 



broad coral escarpment half a mile south of Chestnut Hill. At 0230 the Japanese 
counterattack also struck elements of the 32c! Infantry west of Yonabaru. The 
enemy made some penetration of American lines at this point, and fighting 
continued until after dawn, when the Japanese assault force withdrew, leaving 
many dead behind. 10 

On 25 or 26 May, the main body of the enfeebled 62a 1 Division left Shuri 
and made a circuitous march to the southeast to join the fight against the 184th 
Infantry below Yonabaru. 10 Its arrival on the Ozato-Mura front had no impor- 
tant effect except to strengthen the covering and holding force. The Hemlock- 
Locust Hill Escarpment area was cleared of the enemy on 26 May, and there- 
after the 184th Infantry met no serious opposition as it pressed south to the 
vicinity of Karadera. 17 Patrols sent deep to the south reported encountering only 
scattered enemy troops. It became increasingly evident that the Japanese had 
pulled back their right flank, were fighting only a holding action there, and 
had no intention of withdrawing into the Chinen Peninsula as had been thought 
possible by American commanders. 

It was on the right end of the 7th Division's enveloping attack that the 
Japanese brought the most fire power to bear and offered the most active resist- 
ance. The high ground at this point, where the southwest spurs of Conical Hill 
came down to the Naha-Yonabaru valley, was integrated with the Shuri fortified 
defense zone. American success at this point would cut the road connections 
south from Shuri and permit its envelopment; hence the Japanese denied to the 
96th Division any gains in this area which would have helped the 32d Infantry 
in its push west. 
The Japanese Hold 

The bright promise of enveloping Shuri faded rapidly as the fighting of 
23-26 May brought the 32d Infantry practically to a standstill in front of the 
Japanese defense line across the Yonabaru valley. The Japanese had emplaced 
a large number of antitank guns and automatic weapons which swept all 
approach routes to the key hills. Mortars were concentrated on the reverse slopes. 
Had tanks been able to operate, the 32d Infantry could perhaps have destroyed 
the enemy's fire power and overrun the Japanese defenders, but the tanks were 
mired. On 26 May torrential downpours totaled 3.5 inches of rain ; the last ten 

16 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 55, 25 May 45. 

16 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: The 62^ Division. 

17 184th Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 16-17. 



382 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



days of May averaged i.ii inches daily. 18 General Hodge stated later that no 
phase of the Okinawa campaign worried him more than this period when the 
32d Infantry was trying to break through behind Shuri. 19 

Decisive action in the Japanese holding battle took place in the vicinity of 
Duck and Mabel Hills, east of Chan. Here, on 26 May, the 32d Infantry tried 
to break the enemy resistance, but in a fierce encounter on Duck Hill it was 
thrown back with heavy casualties. The fighting was so intense and confused 
that five Japanese broke through and attacked T/5 William Goodman, the only 
medic left in Company I, who was bandaging wounded men in a forward 
exposed area. Goodman killed all five Japanese with a pistol and then held his 
ground until the wounded were evacuated. In the withdrawal from Duck Hill 
the dead had to be left behind. No gain was made on the 27th, and on the 28th 
there was no activity other than patrolling. 20 

The most significant gains of the 32d Infantry in its drive west were to 
come on 30 and 31 May, when all three of its battalions launched a coordinated 
attack. By the end of 30 May the 326 had taken Oak, Ella, and June Hills; the 
advance brought the regiment directly up against Mabel and Hetty Hills and 
the defenses of Chan. On the last day of the month the 32d Infantry seized Duck 
Hill, consolidated positions on Turkey Hill, north of Mabel, and occupied the 
forward face of Mabel itself. The enemy still held the reverse slope of Mabel 
and occupied the town of Chan. The Japanese encountered were not numerous, 
but they had to be killed in place. They were the rear-guard holding force. 

In front of the 184th Infantry to the southeast, the enemy fought a delaying 
action on 28-29 May at Hill 69, commonly called Karadera Hill, just north of 
the village of the same name. When patrols of the 184th Infantry penetrated 
deep into the Chinen Peninsula on 30 May without encountering the enemy, 
it was obvious that this rugged region would not become a battlefield. 21 

By 30 May the XXIV Corps lines showed a large and deep bulge on the 
left flank below the Naha-Yonabaru road ; here the American lines were approxi- 
mately two miles farther south than at any other part of the cross-island 
battlefront. On the American left flank the envelopment of Shuri had almost 
succeeded in catching the Japanese army. 

18 Tenth Army G—4 Summary No. 99 in G—3 Jnl, Msg No. 35, 31 May 45. 

19 Interv XXIV Corps historian with Gen Hodge, 6 Jul 45. 

20 XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 29 May 45. 

21 Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 352-58; XXIV Corps G—2 Periodic Rpt No. 60, 31 May 45. 



CHAPTER XV 

The Fall of Shuri 



As the end of May approached, conflict had been raging on the Shuri line 
nearly two months and many an American soldier wondered whether Shuri 
would ever be taken or whether he would be alive to witness its capture. While on 
21 May the eastern slope of Conical Hill had been taken, after more than a week 
of further fighting the high belt of Shuri defenses still held firm all around the 
ancient capital of the Ryukyus. The American gains in southern Okinawa 
had been confined to a rather small area of hills and coral ridges which, aside 
from Yontan and Kadena airfields seized on i April, had no important value 
for the attack on the Japanese home islands. It is true that these airfields, the 
flat extent of Ie Shima, and certain coastal areas of central Okinawa suitable 
for air base development were already swarming with naval and army con- 
struction battalions, at work on the task of making the island over into a 
gigantic, unsinkable carrier from which to mount the final air assault on Japan. 
But this was just a beginning. Most of the big prizes — the port of Naha, the 
big anchorage of Nakagusuku Bay, Yonabaru, Shuri, Naha airfield, and the 
flat coastal ground of southern Okinawa — were still effectively denied to the 
Americans, long after they had expected to capture them. 

By the end of May, however, the flower of General Ushijima's forces on 
Okinawa had been destroyed. The three major enemy combat units — the 6i.d 
Division, the 24th Division, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade — had all 
been committed to the line and had all wasted away as a result of the incessant 
naval gunfire, artillery fire, air attacks, and the tank and infantry combat. 
Second-rate troops had for some time been present in the line, mixed with the 
surviving veterans of the regular combat units. By the end of May 62,548 of 
the enemy had been reported killed "and counted" and another 9,529 estimated 
as killed. As compared with 3,214 killed in northern Okinawa and 4,856 on 
Ie Shima, 64,000 of these were reported killed in the fighting in the Shuri 
fortified zone. According to division reports, about 12,000 were killed by the 
1st and 6th Marine Divisions and 41,000 by the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th Army 
Divisions while in the line at one time or another under XXIV Corps. The 



3 8 4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



largest number were killed by the 96th Division, credited with 17,00c 1 
Even though these reports of enemy losses are undoubtedly somewhat 
exaggerated, there is no question that Japanese forces, especially infantry combat 
units, had been seriously depleted. A conservative estimate would indicate that 
50,000 of the best Japanese troops had been killed in the Shuri fighting by the 
end of May. The enemy's artillery also was weakening noticeably as piece after 
piece was captured or was destroyed by naval gunfire, counterbattery fire, and 
air bombing. 

Nothing illustrates so well the great difference between the fighting in the 
Pacific and that in Europe as the small number of military prisoners taken on 
Okinawa. At the end of May the III Amphibious Corps had captured only 128 
Japanese soldiers. At the same time, after two months of fighting in southern 
Okinawa, the four divisions of the XXIV Corps had taken only 90 military 
prisoners. The 77th Division, which had been in the center of the line from the 
last days of April through May, had taken only 9 during all that time. 2 Most of 
the enemy taken prisoner either were badly wounded or were unconscious; they 
could not prevent capture or commit suicide before falling into American hands. 

In the light of these prisoner figures there is no question as to the state of 
Japanese morale. The Japanese soldier fought until he was killed. There was 
only one kind of Japanese casualty — the dead. Those that were wounded either 
died of their wounds or returned to the front lines to be killed. The Japanese 
soldier gave his all. 

Casualties on the American side were the heaviest of the Pacific war. At 
the end of May, losses of the two Marine divisions, whose fighting included 
approximately a month on the Shuri front, stood at 1,718 killed, 8,852 wounded, 
and 101 missing. In two months of fighting, chiefly on the Shuri front, the 
XXIV Corps suffered 2,871 killed, 12,319 wounded, and 183 missing. The XXIV 
Corps and the III Amphibious Corps had lost a total of 26,044 killed, wounded, 
or missing. American losses were approximately one man killed to every ten 
Japanese. 3 

Nonbattle casualties were numerous, a large percentage of them being neuro- 
psychiatry or "combat fatigue" cases. The two Marine divisions had had 6,315 
nonbattle cases by the end of May; the four Army divisions, 7,762. The most 

1 Tenth Army G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 67, 1 Jun 45; G-2 Summary, 1 Jun 45, in Tenth Army G-3 
Jnl, Msg No. 5, 2 Jun 45. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Tenth Army G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 67, 1 Jun 45. For comparative figures see ASF Monthly Progress 
Rpt, Sec. 7, 31 May 45, pp. 17, 19; 30 Sep 45, p. 5. 




Our losses: "one man killed to every ten Japanese.' 
CASUALTIES 



3 86 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



important cause of this was unquestionably the great amount of enemy artillery 
and mortar fire, the heaviest concentrations experienced in the Pacific war. 
Another cause of men's nerves giving way was the unending close-in battle with 
a fanatical foe. The rate of psychiatric cases was probably higher on Okinawa 
than in any previous operation in the Pacific. 4 

If Japanese artillery and mortar fire shattered nerves to such an extent among 
American troops, some idea may be gained of the ordeal experienced by the 
Japanese when they were exposed to the greatly superior American fire power 
delivered by artillery, naval gunfire, and planes. The Japanese, however, were 
generally deep underground during heavy bombardment; the Americans were 
usually in shallow foxholes, in defilade, or exposed on the slope or crest of some 
ridge that was under attack. 

The fighting strength of the American combat units engaged in southern 
Okinawa at the end of May stood at 45,980 for the III Amphibious Corps and 
51,745 for the XXIV Army Corps. The infantry divisions, especially those of the 
Army, were considerably below strength. On 26 May the 77th Infantry Division 
had a strength, exclusive of attached units, of only 9,628 enlisted men; the 96th 
Infantry Division, 10,993. At the end of May the American troops were exhausted. 
Out of 61 days the 96th Division had been in the line 50 days, the 7th Division 
49, the 77th Division the last 32, the 1st Marine Division the last 31, and the 
6th Marine Division more than 3 weeks. In the two months of fighting in south- 
ern Okinawa the 7th and 96th Divisions had seen the most continuous service. 
The 7th Division in that time had had one rest period of 12 days, the 96th 
Division one of 11 days. 5 

For the veteran combat troops of the Japanese army, there was no rest once 
they were committed. With few exceptions they stayed in the line until killed 
or seriously wounded. Gradually, toward the end of May, more and more second- 
rate troops from service units and labor groups were fed into the Japanese line 
to bolster the thinning ranks of the combat infantry. 

American armor, which played so important a part in the ground action, 
had suffered heavily. By the end of May, not counting Marine tank losses, there 
had been 221 tank casualties in the four Army tank battalions and the one 

4 ASF Monthly Progress Rpt, Sec. 7, 30 Sep 45, p. 6; interv 1st I & H Off with Col F. B. Westervelt, 
Tenth Army Surgeon, 31 May 45. 

5 Tenth Army G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 67, 1 Jun 45; G-i Periodic Rpt No. 8, 30 May 45, in G-3 Jnl, 
2 Jun 45. The strength figures cited are confined to effective strength of organic and attached units of 
III Amphibious Corps and XXIV Corps only. For assigned strength of all forces in the Ryukyus, see Appendix 
C, | Table No. i.| 



FALL OF SHURI 



387 



armored flame thrower battalion. Of this total, 94 tanks, or 43 percent, had been 
completely destroyed. Enemy mines had destroyed or damaged 64 tanks and 
enemy gunfire 111. Such mishaps as thrown tracks or bogging down in bad 
terrain had accounted for 38, of which 25 were subsequently destroyed or dam- 
aged, mostly by enemy action. The 221 tank casualties constituted about 57 per- 
cent of the total number of Army tanks on Okinawa. At least 12 of the valuable 
and irreplaceable armored flame-throwing tanks were among those lost. 

Exodus From Shuri 

American staff 1 officers believed that the Japanese would fight at Shuri to 
the end. The struggle had gone on so long in front of Shuri that everyone appar- 
ently had formed the opinion that it would continue there until the last of the 
Japanese defenders had been killed. In a staff meeting at Tenth Army on 19 
May Col. Louis B. Ely, intelligence officer of the Tenth Army, said that it looked 
as though the Japanese would fight at Shuri to the death. In another staff meeting, 
on the evening of 22 May, Colonel Ely, in commenting on the passage of the 
7th Division down the Conical corridor, noted the absence of strong resistance 
to the move and interpreted this as supporting the view that the "Japs will hole 
up in Shuri." At the same time General Buckner remarked: "I think all Jap 
first line troops are in the Shuri position. They don't appear to be falling back." 
On 25 May the Tenth Army periodic intelligence report stated that "evidence 
of captured documents, POW [Prisoners of War] statements, and air photo- 
graphs tends to indicate that the enemy intends to defend the Shuri area to the 
last." 7 

Actually, the Japanese had for some time been preparing to evacuate Shuri. 
About 20 May, even before the final stretches of the eastern face of the Conical 
hogback fell to the 96th Division, the pressure on both flanks and the American 
gains in front of Shuri forced the Japanese command to realize that a decision 
must be made whether to fight to the end at Shuri, bringing all remaining 
resources to that area, or to withdraw from Shuri to other positions farther 
south. The loss of ground on the west flank in the vicinity of Sugar Loaf Hill 

6 XXIV Corps G— 2 Summary No. 12, 5 Jun 45, incls 2 and 7: Results of Enemy Action against Tanks 
as Submitted by 20th Armored Group; Tenth Army Ordnance Periodic Summary, 23 May 45, in G-3 Jnl, 
24 May 45. 

'Notes of Tenth Army Staff Meetings, in Okinawa Diary kept by Lt Col Stevens and M/Sgt Burns, 
19 and 22 May 45; Tenth Army G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 60, 25 May 45. 



3 88 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



and Naha was not, indeed, considered by the Japanese as endangering too 
greatly the defense of Shuri, as they believed that they could meet this threat 
by withdrawing the flank to positions south and southeast of Naha. But the 
loss of the remaining positions on the east and south of Conical Hill made the 
defense of Shuri extremely difficult and tipped the scales. 8 

Decision Under Shuri Castle 

On 21 May, the very day when the 96th Division completed the seizure of 
the eastern face of Conical and carved out the corridor to the south, General 
Ushijima called a night conference in the command caves under Shuri Castle. 
It was attended by all division and brigade commanders of the Japanese jid 
Army. Three alternative courses of action were proposed : a final stand at Shuri; 
withdrawal to the Chinen Peninsula; and withdrawal to the south. 9 

The first plan was favored by the 6id Division, which had fought so long 
in the Shuri area and looked upon that part of the island defenses as peculiarly 
its own. The argument of General Fujioka, the division's commander, was 
supported by the presence of large stores at Shuri and the general feeling that 
a withdrawal would not be in the best traditions of the Japanese Army. The 
second proposal, to retreat to the Chinen Peninsula, received little support from 
anyone; it was considered unfeasible because of the difficulties of transporta- 
tion over mountainous terrain and poor roads. The third possibility, that of with- 
drawing to the south, had in its favor the prospect of prolonging the battle and 
thereby gaining time and exacting greater attrition from the American forces. 
Other considerations favoring the plan were the presence in the south of posi- 
tions prepared earlier by the 24th Division and the availability there of consid- 
erable quantities of stores and supplies. 

For a time the trend of the discussion favored a final battle at Shuri, but it 
was generally conceded that this would result in a quicker defeat for the Jap- 
anese Army. The prospect of prolonging the battle by a withdrawal to the south 
was the determining consideration in the staff debate, and the decision was 
finally made to order a retreat to the south. The commanders present were 
directed to prepare for withdrawal from Shuri at the end of the month. The 
transport of supplies and wounded began the following night, 22-23 May. 
This final tactical deployment began silently, unsuspected by the Americans. 

8 Interrog Yahara; Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. i, 5 Aug 45: j2d Army. 

9 The account of the planning of the Japanese withdrawal from Shun is based on Interrog Yahara; 
Interrog Shimada; Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 1, 5 Aug 45: jzd Army; Summary No. 2, 
2 Aug 45: 6zd Division. 



FALL OF SHURI 



389 



Discovery From the Air 

From 22 May until the end of the month aerial observation over the 
enemy's rear areas was limited by the almost constant overcast and the hard 
rains. Planes, however, were over the enemy's lines for short periods nearly 
every day, and on 22 May groups of individuals, believed to be civilians, were 
observed moving south at dusk from Kamizato. The movement continued 
the following day. It was not believed that these people were soldiers since 
they were wearing white cloth. Leaflets had previously been dropped behind 
the Japanese lines telling the Okinawan civilians to identify themselves by 
wearing white and thus avoid being strafed and bombed. On 24 and 25 May 
aerial observation noted continued movement southward, but the impression 
persisted that it was civilian. 10 

The first doubt of the correctness of this view came on 26 May. In the 
afternoon the overcast lifted long enough for extensive aerial observation over 
the south end of the island. Movement extending from the front lines to the 
southern tip of the island was spotted. About 2,000 troops were estimated to be 
on the move between Oroku Peninsula and the middle part of the island below 
the Naha-Yonabaru valley. At 1800 from 3,000 to 4,000 people were seen traveling 
south just below Shuri. About a hundred trucks were on the roads in front of 
the Yaeju-Dake. At noon two tanks were observed pulling artillery pieces, and 
an hour later a prime mover towing another artillery piece was spotted. During 
the afternoon seven more tanks, moving south and southwest, were seen. 

Pilots strafed the moving columns and reported that some of the soldiers 
seemed to explode when the tracers hit them — an indication that they probably 
were carrying satchel charges. Artillery and naval gunfire, guided by spotter 
planes, hit the larger concentrations of movement and traffic with destructive 
effect. Naval gunfire alone was estimated to have killed 500 Japanese in villages 
south of Tsukasan, and to have destroyed 1 artillery piece and 5 tanks. 11 

Just before dark, at 1902, a column of Japanese with its head near Ozato, 
just west of the Yuza-Dake, was seen in the far south of the island, moving 
north. Fifteen minutes later it was reported that this road was blocked to a 
point just above Makabe with troops moving north. The troop column extended 
over about 5,000 yards of road and was estimated to be in regimental strength. 

I0 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 464. 

11 Tenth Army G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 62, 27 May 45; CTF 51, Summary No. 80, 27 May 45, in Tenth 
Army G-3 Jnl, 28 May 45. 




SECRET RETREAT of the Japanese from Shuri was difficult for Intelligence to discover 
because of pitted, wooded terrain such as this. Where, however, enemy could be found, 
they were scattered or destroyed. These Japanese howitzers (below) were caught on road 
leading south from Shuri. 




FALL OF SHURI 



This was the largest enemy troop movement ever seen in the Okinawa 
campaign. 12 

The reports of the aerial observers on the 26th were perplexing. Enemy 
troops were moving in all directions. The majority, however, were headed 
south; the main exception was the largest column, which was moving north. The 
heaviest movement was in an area about five miles south of Shuri. It was noted 
that artillery and armor were moving south. What did it all mean ? One careful 
appraisal concluded that the Japanese were taking advantage of the bad 
weather, poor aerial observation, and the general stalling of the American attack 
to carry out a relief of tired troops in the lines by fresh reserves from the south. 
It was believed that artillery was being moved to new emplacements for greater 
protection and for continued support of the Shuri battle. 13 

The next day, 27 May, little movement was noted behind the enemy's lines 
in the morning, but in the afternoon from 2,000 to 3,000 troops were seen 
moving in both directions at the southern end of the island. 14 

After the reports of enemy movement on 26 May by aerial observers, 
General Buckner issued on 27 May an order directing that both corps "initiate 
without delay strong and unrelenting pressure to ascertain probable intentions 
and keep him [the Japanese] off balance. Enemy must not be permitted to 
establish himself securely on new positions with only nominal interference." 15 
In view of the preponderance of other evidence it seems that this order was 
purely precautionary, and that there was no real conviction in the American 
command that the Japanese were actually engaged in a withdrawal from Shuri. 

On 28 May the Tenth Army intelligence officer observed in a staff meeting 
that it "now looks as though the Japanese thinks holding the line around north 
of Shuri is his best bet. ... It is probable that we will gradually surround 
the Shuri position." 16 General Buckner indicated at this meeting that he was 
concerned about the possibility of a Japanese counterattack against the 7th 
Division on the left flank. He asked, "What has Arnold in reserve against counter- 
attack?" 17 On the following day, however, General Buckner said it looked as 

12 Tenth Army G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 62, 27 May 45; XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 56, 27 May 45. 

13 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 466-67. 

14 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 57, 28 May 45. See also Tenth Army G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 63, 
28 May 45. 

15 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7-III-24, 25. 

19 Notes of Tenth Army staff meeting in Okinawa Diary kept by Lt Col Stevens and M/Sgt Burns, 
28 May 45. 
17 Ibid. 



392 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



though the Japanese were trying to pull south but that they had made the 
decision too late. 18 On the day before, a total of 112 trucks and vehicles and 
approximately 1,000 enemy troops had been observed on the move to the south 
and southeast, in the vicinity of Itoman on the west coast, and around Iwa and 
Tomui in front of the Yaeju-Dake, a strong terrain position in the south. 19 On 
28 May Marine patrols found evidence of recently evacuated enemy positions 
west of Shuri. 20 On 29 May there was almost no aerial observation because of 
a zero ceiling, and on 30 May practically no movement was seen behind the 
enemy's lines. 

American opinion on the meaning of the Japanese movements crystallized 
on 30 May. After a meeting with III Amphibious Corps and XXIV Army Corps 
intelligence officers the Tenth Army intelligence officer reported at a staff meet- 
ing on the evening of 30 May that they had reached a consensus that the "enemy 
was holding the Shuri lines with a shell, and that the bulk of the troops were 
elsewhere." He estimated that there were 5,000 enemy troops in what he hoped 
would be the Shuri pocket, and stated that he did not know where the bulk of 
the Japanese troops were. 21 At a staff meeting held on the evening of 31 May, it 
was suggested that the enemy would make his next line the high ground from 
Naha-Ko and the Oroku Peninsula on the west to Baten-Ko below Yonabaru 
on the east. At this meeting General Buckner stated that "he [General Ushijima] 
made his decision to withdraw from Shuri two days too late." 22 During the 
following days it became clear that the Americans had underestimated the scope 
of the enemy's tactical plan and the extent to which it had been executed. 

The Retreat South 

Once the Japanese decision to withdraw had been made, steps were taken 
to carry out the withdrawal in an orderly manner. The major part of the trans- 
portation fell to the 24th Transport Regiment of the 24th Division. This unit had 
been exceptionally well trained in night driving in Manchuria, and as a result of 
its fine performance in the withdrawal from Shuri it received a unit citation 
from the j2d Army. When the withdrawal from Shuri began only 80 of the 
150 trucks of the transport regiment were left. One hundred and fifty Okinawan 

18 Ibid., 29 May 45. 

10 Tenth Army G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 64, 29 May 45. 
"Ill Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 56. 

21 Notes of Tenth Army staff meeting in Okinawa Diary (Stevens— Burns), 30 May 45. 

22 Ibid., 31 May 45. 



FALL OF SHURI 



393 



Boeitai helped to load the vehicles. The formal order from 32^ Army head- 
quarters to withdraw from Shuri was apparently issued on 24 May. 23 

The movement of supplies and the wounded began first, one truck unit 
moving out the night of 22 May. Communication units proceeded between 22 
and 28 May to Mabuni and Hill 89, where the jid Army proposed to establish 
its new command post. The 36th Signal Regiment left Shuri on 26 May and 
arrived at Mabuni by way of Tsukasan on 28 May. Other units moved out 
early. The 22d Independent Antitank^ Gun Battalion left the Shuri area on the 
night of 24-25 May, withdrawing to the Naha-Yonabaru valley area, and at 
the end of the month continued on south to the southern end of the island. Rem- 
nants of the iph Tan\ Regiment began to withdraw from Shuri on 26 May, 
passing through Kamizato. At the same time the 103d and 105th Machine Can- 
non Battalions left the Shuri and Shichina areas and began the movement south, 
hand-carrying some of their guns. 24 

Of the major combat units of the 32^ Army, the 6id Division left first. It 
began moving out of Shuri on 26 May, two days ahead of the original schedule, 
fighting delaying actions in the zone of the 7th Division, where the bulge had 
been pushed deep to the southwest of Yonabaru. The 44th Independent Mixed 
Brigade on the left flank in front of the 6th and 1st Marine Divisions was to 
begin withdrawing from the front lines on 26 May, but, because of the failure of 
naval ground troops to arrive and take over the lines, the evacuation of the front 
positions by the brigade had to be delayed two days, and it was not until 28 May 
that the withdrawal began in the western part of the line. The units of the 
brigade assembled behind the lines and made the move south in mass on the 
night of 1-2 June. One battalion, the 3d, withdrew directly from Shuri. The 
24th Division remained behind longest. Elements of the division fought in front 
of Shuri as late as 30 May, and the division headquarters itself did not leave 
Shuri until 29 May. The mortar battalions supporting the Shuri front had for 
the most part already left, their main movement south having taken place 
between 27 and 29 May. 25 

23 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 3, 2 Aug 45: 24th Division; No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62J Division; 
No. 19, 25 Jul 45: Air-Ground Units. 

24 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 8, 24 Jul 45: 2jth 7an\ Regt; No. 9, 24 Jul 45: Independent 
Antitank Gun Units; No. 12, 3 Aug 45: Army AAA Units on Okinawa; No. 15, 31 Jul 45: 36th Signal 
Regiment; XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 133 [n. d.] ; 7th Div PW Interrog Rpt No. 47, 29 Jun 45. 

25 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62 J Division; No. 4, 1 Aug 45: 44th Inde- 
pendent Mixed Brigade; No. 3, 2 Aug 45: The 24th Division; No. 10, 30 Jul 45: 1st and 2d Light Mortar 
Battalions; No. 11,4 Aug 45: 1st Artillery Mortar Regiment. 



394 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The evidence is conflicting concerning the date when the Army head- 
quarters left Shuri. The cook for the p,d Army staff said that the Army 
headquarters left Shuri on 26 May and arrived at the Hill 89 headquarters cave 
near Mabuni on 29 May. Officers of the 62d Division confirmed this, stating that 
the Army headquarters left Shuri on 26 May, the same day the division itself 
started to move south. On the other hand, Colonel Yahara, j2d Army operations 
officer, and Mr. Shimada, secretary to General Cho, stated that the Army head- 
quarters did not move from Shuri until the night of 29 May. On the whole the 
evidence seems to indicate that the Army headquarters moved from Shuri 
before 29 May. On that day elements of the 1st Marine Division entered Shuri 
Castle, the 24th Division headquarters left Shuri, and only the last of the rear- 
guard units were still in the line as a holding force. It seems improbable that 
the ^id Army headquarters would have remained behind so long. It appears 
likely that the Army headquarters left Shuri at night between 26 and 28 May, 
possibly as early as 26 May. 28 

The main movement of ^.d Army combat units out of the inner Shuri 
defense zone took place from 26 to 28 May, some of the units, particularly the 
62d Division, fighting as they went. The 3d Independent Antitank^ Battalion, the 
id Battalion of the 22d Regiment of the 24th Division, and part of the ijth 
Independent Machine Gun Battalion formed the principal components of the 
final holding force in front of Shuri, 29-31 May, after the j2d Regiment 
withdrew. 27 

American Occupation of Shuri 

As the battle lines tightened around Shuri at the end of May, the 1st Marine 
Division on the northwest and the 77th Division on the north and northeast 
stood closest to the town. Patrols reported no signs of weakness in the enemy's 
determination to hold the Shuri position. Invariably they drew heavy fire when 
they tried to move forward. There was one exception to the reports of the 
patrols. On 28 May a patrol brought back to the 5th Marines, 1st Marine 
Division, the news that Shuri Ridge, the high ground south of Wana Draw, 
seemed to be held more lightly than formerly. KSee Map No. XLIVJ 

20 7th Div PW Interrog Rpt No. 45, 26 Jun 45 (Nakamuta); Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary 
No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division; Interrog Yahara; Interrog Shimada. 

"Memo G-2 XXIV Corps for DCofS for Opns XXIV Corps [n. d.] cited in Appleman, XXIV Corps 
History, p. 475. The memo was prepared about the end of June 1945 and was based on PW interrogations 
and captured documents. 




SHURI HEIGHTS, at southwest corner of the city, was approached by the marines from 
the low ground at right. First building to be ta\en was the Shuri Normal School (upper 
left). (Photo ta\en 28 April 1945.) 



396 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The Marines Ta\e Shuri Castle 

At 0730 on 29 May the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, left its lines and started 
forward toward Shuri Ridge, where patrol action the previous day had indi- 
cated a possible weakness in the enemy's lines. The high ground was quickly 
occupied. The 1st Battalion was now on the ridge that lay at the eastern edge 
of Shuri. Shuri Castle itself lay from 700 to 800 yards almost straight west across 
the Corps and division boundary. From all appearances, this part of the Shuri 
perimeter was undefended and the castle could be captured by merely walking 
up to it. The battalion commander immediately requested permission from 
his regimental commander to cross the Corps boundary and go into Shuri Castle. 
The request was approved, and at midmorn Company A of the 5th Marines 
started toward the spot that had been so long a symbol of Japanese strength on 
Okinawa. At 1015 Shuri Castle was occupied by Company A. 28 The Marine 
unit entered Shuri through a gap in the covering forces caused by the with- 
drawal of the 3d Battalion, iph Independent Mixed Regiment of the 44th Inde- 
pendent Mixed Brigade, in the course of the Japanese retreat from Shuri. 29 
This seems to have been the only notable instance of confusion and mistake in 
the Japanese withdrawal operation as a whole. Everywhere else around Shuri 
the Japanese still held their covering positions in the front lines. 

As a result of the unexpected entrance into Shuri, the 1st Marine Division 
at 0930 ordered the 1st Marines to bypass Wana Draw, leaving its position in 
the line next to the 77th Division, and to move around to the southwest to relieve 
the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, in Shuri. This move was carried out with the 3d 
Battalion leading and the 1st Battalion following. Enemy positions were by- 
passed on the right, and by night the two battalions had established a perimeter 
in the south of Shuri. 

The elements of the 1st Marine Division which entered Shuri Castle had 
crossed over into the 77th Division zone of action and line of fire without giving 
that unit notice that such a movement was under way. The 77th Division learned 
of the move barely in time to cancel an air strike on the Shuri Castle area which 
it had scheduled. 30 

The next day, the Marine units at Shuri Castle and south of Shuri did not 
move, except for small patrols that were turned back by heavy machine-gun 

28 The account of the capture of Shuri Castle is, unless otherwise noted, taken from ist Mar Div Special 
Actn Rpt Phase III, pp. 7-8; Stockman, ist Mar Div History, pp. 40-42; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 56. 

29 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4, 1 Aug 45: 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. 

30 77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa, p. 62; Leach, 77th Div History, II, 96-98. 



FALL OF SHURI 



397 



and 47-mm. antitank fire a few hundred yards north of the castle. Vehicles could 
not reach the marines in Shuri and their supplies were critically low. Carrying 
parties of replacement troops formed an almost unbroken line from the west 
coast dumps all the way to Shuri. Many men collapsed from sheer exhaustion. 
Five air drops through heavy clouds to the marines in Shuri relieved somewhat 
their critical supply situation on 30 May. 31 

The entrances to the caves under Shuri Castle were still held by the enemy 
at 1330 on 30 May, and no additional ground had been taken in Shuri itself. 32 
The two Marine battalions, dug in, merely formed a pocket within the Japanese 
perimeter on which the enemy's rear guard was fighting the holding battle 
around Shuri. The occupation of Shuri Castle did not cause these Japanese to 
withdraw from their covering positions or result in the occupation of Shuri 
itself; nor did it, so far as is known, affect the enemy's plans. The marines them- 
selves had all they could do to get food and water and some ammunition up to 
their position in order to stay. 

The Crust Breads 

Although the holding party at 100 Meter Hill repulsed the 306th Infantry 
on 30 May when it attacked across the Marine line, elsewhere across the Shuri 
front key positions were wrested from the enemy in what obviously was a 
breaking up of the Japanese rear-guard action. Now for the first time there was 
convincing proof along the front lines that the Japanese had withdrawn from 



Shuri. (See Map No. XLV.) 



Dorothy Hill, a fortress directly east of Shuri and a tower of strength in 
the enemy's inner line for the past two weeks, was attacked by the 3d Battalion, 
307th Infantry, 77th Division. The first platoon to reach the base of the hill was 
pinned down by heavy fire, the platoon leader and all noncommissioned officers 
being wounded. Other platoons maneuvered into position and finally one squad 
reached the crest at the right end. This entering wedge enabled two companies 
to reach the top, from which they discovered three levels of caves on the reverse 
slope. They went to work methodically, moving from right to left along the 
top level, burning and blasting each cave and dugout, the flame-thrower and 
satchel-charge men covered by riflemen. When work on the top level was 
finished, the second level of caves and tunnels received similar treatment, and 
then the third and lowest level. That night fifteen Japanese who had survived 

31 See also Tenth Army G-4 Periodic Rpt No. 66, 31 May 45. 

32 Tenth Army G— 2 Summary, 30 May 45, in Tenth Army G-3 Jnl, 31 May 45. 



398 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the day's fighting crawled out of the blasted caves and were killed by Americans 
from their foxholes. A great amount of enemy equipment, including ten de- 
stroyed 150-mm. guns and twenty-five trucks, was found on the south (reverse) 
side of Dorothy Hill, testifying to the enemy fire power at this strong point. 
On 30 May, the 77th Division also took Jane Hill on its left flank and then almost 
unopposed took Tom Hill, the highest point of ground in the Shuri area, by 
1700. 33 

For nine days elements of the 96th Division had been stalemated at the base 
of Hen Hill, just northeast of Shuri. On the 30th, Company F and one platoon 
of Company G, 382d Infantry, resumed the attack on Hen Hill. Pfc. Clarence 
B. Craft, a rifleman from Company G, was sent out ahead with five companions 
to test the Japanese positions. As he and his small group started up the slope, 
they were brought under heavy fire from Japanese just over the crest, and a 
shower of grenades fell on them. Three of the men were wounded and the other 
two were stopped. Craft, although a new replacement and in his first action, 
kept on going, tossing grenades at the crest. From just below the crest he threw 
two cases of grenades that were passed up to him from the bottom, those of 
the enemy going over his head or exploding near him. He then leaped to the 
crest and fired at point-blank range into the Japanese in a trench a few feet 
below him. Spurred by Craft's example, other men now came to his aid. 
Reloading, Craft pursued the Japanese down the trench, wiped out a machine- 
gun nest, and satchel-charged the cave into which the remaining Japanese had 
retreated. Altogether, in the taking of Hen Hill as a result of Craft's action, 
about seventy Japanese were killed, at least twenty-five of whom were credited to 
Craft himself. This daring action won him the Congressional Medal of Honor. 34 

To the left (east), Company F at the same time engaged in a grenade 
battle for Hector Hill, using ten cases of grenades in the assault on the crest. 
It was finally won after a satchel charge was hurled over the top and lit in the 
enemy trench on the other side, parts of Japanese bodies and pieces of enemy 
equipment hurtling into the sky in the blast. Hen and Hector Hills had fallen 
by 1400. 35 

On the 96th Division's left rapid advances were made on 30 May. Roger 
Hill was seized when the Japanese failed to man their combat positions quickly 

33 Leach, 77th Div History, II, 99; XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 61, 1 Jun 45; Appleman, XXIV 
Corps History, p. 454. 

34 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 16 off; WA AGO No. 97, 1 Nov 45. 

35 Mulford and Rogers, op. cit., p. 163. 



CASTLE 




SHURI, photographed 28 April (above) and 23 May 1945 (below). Ruins shown in lower 
picture include Methodist Church and a 2-story concrete structure (circle A). Dotted 
outline in photos indicates the castle wall. 




400 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



enough after an artillery barrage that had driven them to cover. They were 
killed to a man by the infantry, which surprised them when they tried to reach 
their fighting positions. Sgt. Richard Hindenburg alone killed six of the enemy 
with his BAR. The 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, went down the western slope 
of the Conical hogback to find from 75 to 100 dead Japanese on the reverse 
slope of Cutaway Hill. At last the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, reached Love 
Hill and dug in, although scattered fire was still received from a machine gun 
in a nook of Charlie Hill and there were a few live Japanese on Love itself. 
In the afternoon the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, left its foxholes on Oboe, 
where it had experienced so great an ordeal, and proceeded down the reverse 
slope of the hill, finding only a few scattered Japanese. That night the 383d 
Infantry expressed a heartfelt sentiment when it reported "infinite relief to have 
Conical Hill behind us." Although there had been suicidal stands in a few 
places by the last of the holding force, the advances had been rapid. 36 

On 31 May the 77th Division walked over 100 Meter Hill at the eastern end 
of Wana Ridge and on into Shuri. The marines from the vicinity of Shuri 
Castle moved north without opposition to help in the occupation of the bat- 
tered rubble. Overnight the enemy had stolen away. When darkness fell on 
31 May the III Amphibious Corps and the XXIV Corps had joined lines south 
of Shuri and the 77th Division had been pinched out in the center of the line 
at Shun. The troops rested on their arms before beginning the pursuit south 
with the coming of dawn. 87 

Crater of the Moon 

Shuri, the second town of Okinawa, lay in utter ruin. There was no other 
city, town, or village in the Ryukyus that had been destroyed so completely. 
Naha too had been laid waste. Certain villages which had been strong points in 
the enemy's defense, such as Kakazu, Dakeshi, Kochi, Arakachi, and Kunishi, 
had been fought over and leveled to the ground. But none of these compared 
with the ancient capital of the Ryukyus. It was estimated that about 200,000 
rounds of artillery and naval gunfire had struck Shuri. Numerous air strikes 
had dropped 1,000-pound bombs on it. Mortar shells by the thousands had 
arched their way into the town area. Only two structures, both of concrete — 
the big normal school at the southwestern corner and the little Methodist 

36 Ibid., pp. 158-60; XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 60, 31 May 45; 383d Inf Actn Rpt, p. 33; 
Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 455. 

"306th Inf Actn Rpt, Narrative Acct, p. 13; 1st Mar Div Special Actn Rpt, Phase III, p. 7; Leach, 
77th Div History, II, 99-100. 




SHURI CASTLE BELL, with an American officer standing by. Bell is a companion to one 
brought to U. S. Naval Academy by Commodore Perry. 



402 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



church, built in 1937, in the center of Shuri — had enough of their walls standing 
to form silhouettes on the skyline. The rest was flattened rubble. The narrow 
paved and dirt streets, churned by high explosives and pitted with shell craters, 
were impassable to any vehicle. The stone walls of the numerous little terraces 
were battered down. The rubble and broken red tile of the houses lay in heaps. 
The frame portion of buildings had been reduced to kindling wood. Tattered 
bits of Japanese military clothing, gas masks, and tropical helmets — the most 
frequently seen items — and the dark-colored Okinawan civilian dress lay about 
in wild confusion. Over all this crater-of-the-moon landscape hung the unfor- 
gettable stench of rotting human flesh. 38 

On a high oval knob of ground at the southern edge of the town, Shuri 
Castle had stood. Walls of coral blocks, 20 feet thick at the base and 40 feet in 
height, enclosed the castle area of approximately 290 acres. The castle in its 
modern form had been constructed in 1544, the architecture being of Chinese 
origin. Here the kings of Okinawa had ruled. Now the massive ramparts, 
which had been battered by 14- and 16-inch shells from American battleships, 
remained intact in only a few places. Inside the castle area one could discern 
the outline of the rubble-strewn and pitted parade ground. Magnificent large 
trees that had graced the castle grounds were now blackened skeletons on the 
skyline. 

From the debris of what once had been Shuri Castle two large bronze bells, 
scarred and dented by shell fire, were dug out by the troops. One of them 
was about five feet in height, the other three and a half. Cast about 1550, they 
were inscribed with characters that may be translated as follows : 

In the Southern Seas lie the islands of Ryukyu Kingdom, known widely for their 
scenic beauty. The Kingdom of Ryukyu embraces the excellent qualities of the three Han 
states of Korea and the culture of the Mings. Separated as it is from these nations by 
distance, still it is as close to them as lips to teeth. . . . 

Behold! What is a bell? A bell is that which sounds far, wide, and high. It is a rare 
Buddhist instrument, bringing order to the routine of the monk. At dawn it breaks the 
long stillness of the night and guards against the torpidity of sleep. . . . 

It will always ring on time, to toll the approach of darkness, and to toll the hour of 
dawn. It will startle the indolent into activity that will restore honor to their names. And 
how will the bell sound? It will echo far and wide like a peal of thunder, but with utmost 
purity. And evil men, hearing the bell, will be saved. 39 

38 For the description of Shuri see Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 458-62. 

39 Ibid. j pp. 461-62. 



CHAPTER XVI 



Behind the Front 

The stubborn and protracted defense by the Japanese of the fortified Shuri 
area affected every phase of logistic and other operations in support of the 
Okinawa campaign, adding unforeseen complications to the execution of a mis- 
sion which in itself was of great complexity and magnitude. As time passed far 
beyond the limits set in the plans the quantity of supplies and equipment used 
increased in direct proportion, while the reduction of the elaborate defenses 
required the expenditure of inordinate amounts of materiel, especially ammu- 
nition. The planned capture of the ports of Naha and Yonabaru for the delivery 
of cargo failed to materialize and, as a result, the increased supplies required 
could not be unloaded in sufficient quantities. The carefully integrated shipping 
schedules for garrison and maintenance supplies were thereby upset. At the 
same time construction of base facilities was delayed. Difficulties were com- 
pounded when, in the last days of May and the early part of June 1945, the 
invading forces found themselves fighting the weather as well as the enemy. 
Steady and heavy rains severed land communications on Okinawa, and the 
motorized Tenth Army was bogged down in the mud. Only through the utmost 
use of all available resources, energetic improvisation, and resort to water and 
air transportation was it possible to keep the supplies rolling in to the appointed 
place in approximately the desired quantities and in time to defeat the enemy. 1 

As soon as the hilly terrain behind the Hagushi beaches was overrun by 
American troops, it became the scene of feverish activity. Roads were widened 
and improved, supply dumps established, antiaircraft guns emplaced, and hun- 
dreds of military installations constructed. Tent settlements sprang up every- 
where, and the dark green of pyramidal and squad tents became as common- 
place a feature of the landscape as the Okinawan tomb. Coral was chopped away 
from hills and laid on the roads and airfields. Bumper-to-bumper traffic raised 
clouds of dust on the main thoroughfares in dry weather and splattered along 
through deep mud in wet. Telephone service soon linked all Army and Navy 

1 Unless otherwise noted, the account of Okinawa campaign logistics was taken from Tenth Army 
Actn Rpt, Ch. 11, Sees. IV, XI, XIII, XIV, XVI; XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 26, 30, 31, 65-71, 80-83; Island 
Command Okinawa Actn Rpt, 30 Jun 45. 




Large supply installation in Ka\azu area 




BEHIND THE FRONT 



installations, and Signal Corps troops also established an elaborate radio com- 
munication net and service to American bases in the rear. There were 170,000 
Americans on the island a month after the landings, and about 245,000 on 
Okinawa and neighboring islands at the end of June. 2 



Supply Operations 

Bringing the Supplies Ashore 

Unloading of the assault shipping was nearly completed by 16 April, 



ahead of schedule. 3 (See Appendix C, Table No. 7.) Further progress was sat- 



isfactory through 6 May. Thereafter, however, the discharge of supplies failed 
to keep pace with unloading plans. Between 7 May and 15 June tonnage un- 
loaded was more than 200,000 measurement tons behind schedule. However, 
this was largely offset by the earlier achievements, and the cumulative effect 
was not evident until 5 June. The chief difficulty was the failure to capture the 
port of Naha with its harbor and dock facilities as early as planned. Unloading 
continued for the most part over the reef and beaches in the Hagushi area long 
after it was expected that they would have been abandoned in favor of rehabili- 
tated port facilities. |(See Appendix C, Chart No. 3.)! High winds, heavy rains, 



frequent air raids, and equipment shortages all contributed to the delays and the 
cumulative deficiencies. Particularly onerous was the necessity of selective dis- 
charge of cargo to bring ashore critical items of supply. Sometimes dock gangs 
had to be pulled off ships prior to unloading and placed on "hot" ships as 
emergencies developed. In the face of all these difficulties, more than 2,000,000 
measurement tons of cargo were unloaded on Okinawa from 1 April to 30 
June, an average of some 22,200 tons a day. |(See Appendix C, Table JNo. 6.) 



To supplement the tonnage unloaded at the Hagushi beaches, Tenth A rmy 
developed a number of unloading points at other places along the coasts of 
Okinawa. Such points were opened between 5 and 9 April in northern Okinawa 
for close support of III Amphibious Corps in its rapid advance northward 
during the early stages of the operation. After the marines moved south to take 
part in the drive against the main enemy position, work was rushed to develop 
unloading facilities at Machinato on the west coast. By 25 May LCT's were being 
unloaded at a temporary sand causeway. At the same time, temporary unloading 



2 Tenth Army G-4 Rpt No. 38, 3 May 45; No. 98, 2 Jul 45. Figures are those for the ration strength 
of Tenth Army. 

3 See above, |pp. bo-8i. | 



406 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



points were developed on the coast between Machinato and Naha in further 
support of the III Corps. On 7 June, the port of Naha was opened for the use 
of LCT's and the rehabilitation of harbor and dock facilities was begun. It was 
planned that by the end of June the bulk of west-coast tonnage would be 
unloaded at Naha and that the Hagushi beaches would gradually be abandoned. 

Unloading on the east coast of Okinawa began in the middle of April, 
and use was successively made of beaches at Chimu Bay, Ishikawa, Katchin 
Peninsula, Awase, and Kuba. Yonabaru was captured on 22 May and supplies 
were unloaded there on 1 June. A ponton pier was started there for LST's and 
smaller craft a week later and was completed on 12 June. In the last stages of 
the campaign an emergency unloading point was opened at Minatoga on the 
southeast coast on 9 June and was operated for two weeks. 

By 30 June 1945 about 20 percent of all tonnage unloaded on Okinawa had 
been brought ashore at points other than the Hagushi beaches, amounting to 
nearly 400,000 measurement tons of cargo. In one respect, however, the use of 
unscheduled supply points contributed to the delays of unloading: as each new 
beach was opened in immediate support of the assault, available lighterage, 
trucks, and personnel were dispersed over a number of places, thereby materially 
slowing operations at the original unloading points. In addition, much of the 
cargo handled over the new beaches was not discharged directly from ships 
but from landing craft that had loaded at previously established dumps at 
Hagushi, Awase, and Kuba and had sailed down the coast. 

As a result of slow unloading, ships awaiting discharge accumulated at 
the various anchorages and presented fine targets for Japanese air attacks. 
While strenuous efforts were continuously made to speed unloading operations 
and return the ships to safer areas, the originally planned schedule of resupply 
shipping could not be adhered to. Emphasis was placed on calling up ships 
loaded with supplies that were in great need on the island at the particular time. 
Calling up only the number of such ships which could be expeditiously handled 
was not always possible because the requirements were so great, particularly in 
the case of ammunition ships. 4 

Delivery of Supplies to the Front 

Responsibility for supplying the assault troops passed smoothly, during the 
initial stages, from division to corps and then to the Island Command, the 
Army logistic agency, on 9 April. Depot and dump operations for the Island 

4 CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-I-30. 



EEHIND THE FRONT 



407 



Command were handled by the 1st Engineer Special Brigade until 24 May, 
when Island Command took over direct operational control of supply installa- 
tions. All units normally drew supplies in their organic transportation from 
the Island Command supply points. These were first established in the area 
behind the Hagushi beaches, but forward supply points were opened farther 
south as the action moved toward that end of the island. Initially an ammunition 
supply point was established for each division, and, as operations progressed, 
these points were consolidated and new ones set up farther forward. 

No unusual difficulties were encountered in moving up supplies to the 
troops until the latter part of May. When the heavy rains started on 20 May and 
continued day and night for two weeks, the main supply roads linking the 
forward and rear areas were washed out and movement of vehicles became 
impossible. The rainy period, moreover, coincided with the break-through at 
Shuri that started the troops moving rapidly south away from all established 
supply points. It became necessary to resort to water transportation to bring 
supplies to the forward dumps. In the interim the 7th Division, which was 
making the main efTort in the sector at the time, was supplied by LVT along 
the coast. XXIV Corps established a supply point at Yonabaru on 31 May, and 
lighterage was made available by the Island Command and the Navy for the 
delivery of the necessary supplies. The first supplies arrived at Yonabaru on 
LCT's on 1 June. Several LCT's also ferried service troops and artillery forward 
and evacuated casualties. 

As the pursuit of the retreating Japanese continued, the Corps turned the 
Yonabaru supply point over to Island Command and concentrated on a new 
forward unloading point at Minatoga, on the southern coast. To ensure the 
steady flow of ammunition to XXIV Corps units, a cargo ship and three LST's 
loaded entirely with that class of supply were anchored off Yonabaru and 
Minatoga and used as floating ammunition supply points. The 7th Division 
received some supplies by LVT at Minatoga on 6 June. The initial shipment 
of four LCT's loaded with rations and fuel and an LST with ammunition arrived 
on 8 June. Forty-four LVT's loaded with ammunition and bridging material 
were sent to Minatoga aboard an LST on 9 June. Shipments to the new supply 
point were continued from both east and west coasts of Okinawa by LST and 
LCT, with the LVT's being used as lighterage from ship to shore. During much 
of this time, supply of the assault elements on the line was almost entirely by 
hand carry. On the west coast III Amphibious Corps was being supplied ammu- 
nition by a cargo ship, an LST, and about seventy DUKW's making daily trips 




Supply trucks pulled through bad spot by j02d Combat Engineers 
MOVING SUPPLIES 



BEHIND THE FRONT 



from rear areas, all unloading at Naha. Thirty-four LVT's also made a daily 
trip from the Hagushi beaches to advance Corps positions along the coast. 

Air delivery was also utilized at this time to bring supplies forward. The 
Air Delivery Section of III Amphibious Corps was responsible for all air drops 
on the island. The section operated from CVE's until 18 April, and thereafter 
from Kadena airfield. Using torpedo bombers rather than C-47's, primarily 
because more accurate drops could thus be made, the section delivered a total 
of 334 short tons of supplies in 830 planeloads. Most of the air drops were to III 
Amphibious Corps units, particularly the 1st Marine Division, whose front-line 
elements were supplied almost exclusively by air between 30 May and 9 June, 
when the roads in its area were impassable even to tracked vehicles. The tonnage 
delivered by air to XXIV Corps in the week 2-9 June was small but, because 
of its emergency nature, important. Supplies thus dropped consisted in the main 
of ammunition and rations. 5 

Maintenance and construction of supply roads were impeded by the lack of 
good road-building material and by rapid deterioration from rainy weather and 
heavy traffic. In the XXIV Corps zone the limestone coral used for road building 
in the early stages of the campaign proved to be unsuitable, and extensive use had 
to be made of rubble from destroyed buildings and stone walls. A rock crusher 
was not available. As the Corps drove southward, the lack of adequate sources of 
coral limestone became acute and the use of building rubble had to be continued. 
When a rock crusher was made available at the end of the first week in June, it 
was set up and operated in a limestone quarry and then moved to a site where the 
excellent stone from the razed Shuri Castle could be used. It was at this time, 
moreover, that the problem of road maintenance became overwhelming. A 12- 
inch rainfall between 22 May and 5 June forced the abandonment of the two 
main supply roads serving the Corps. One of these, Route 13 along the east coast, 
was not reconstructed during the battle ; the engineers concentrated on keeping 
Route 5, down the center of the island, in operation, as well as the roads running 
south from Yonabaru and Minatoga, to which supplies were moved by water. In 
the Marine zone on the west side of the island, only the continuous labor of all 
engineer units and rigid traffic control kept Route 1 open. By the end of June 
main supply roads had been developed from Chuda to Naha on the west coast 
(Route 1), from Chibana to Shuri in the center (Route 5), from Kin to Yona- 
baru on the east coast (Route 13), and at six intermediate points across the island. 



5 III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 128. 



410 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Approximately 164 miles of native roads had been reconstructed and widened 
for two-lane traffic, 37 miles of two-, three-, and four-lane roads had been newly 
constructed, and a total of 339 miles of road was under maintenance. 
Supply Shortages 

Providing an adequate supply of ammunition to support the sustained at- 
tacks on the Shuri defenses constituted the most critical logistical problem of the 
campaign. The resupply of ammunition beyond the initial five CINCPOA units 
of fire had been planned for a 40-day operation; the island was not officially 
declared secure until L plus 82 (22 June). 6 The sinking of three ammunition 
ships by enemy action on 6 and 27 April and damage to other ships resulted in a 
total loss of 21,000 short tons of ammunition. The unloading of ammunition was, 
moreover, never rapid enough to keep pace with expenditures, particularly by 
the artillery, and at the same time to build up ample reserves in the ammunition 
supply points. Further, it was found that the shiploads of all calibers balanced 
according to the CINCPOA unit of fire prescription did not fit the needs of a 
protracted campaign; the requirements for artillery ammunition far exceeded 
those for small-arms ammunition and resulted in hasty, wasteful unloading 
and constant shortages. 

The ammunition situation first became critical when XXIV Corps de- 
veloped the Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru defense line during the second week of April. 
The ammunition expenditures in the large-scale artillery attacks mounted 
rapidly. As the rate of discharge from the ships failed to keep pace, the supplies 
on hand dwindled. The plans for the Corps attack designed to penetrate the 
Japanese positions called for an expenditure of 14,800 tons of artillery ammuni- 
tion plus supply maintenance of some 1,000 tons a day. To conserve supplies, 
command restrictions on artillery ammunition expenditures were imposed on 
9 April. The Corps attack was delayed until 19 April, partly in order to accumu- 
late sufficient stocks and reserves. This was accomplished in time by means of 
greater unloading efforts, making available all resupply ammunition, and divert- 
ing III Amphibious Corps' stocks to XXIV Corps. 

After the attack of 19 April ammunition expenditures continued to mount. 
By the end of the campaign a total of 97,800 tons of ammunition had been ex- 
pended. XXIV Corps alone consumed about 64,000 tons between 4 April and 
21 June, and restrictions on daily expenditures were continuously in force in its 
zone until L plus 61 (1 June). In spite of restrictions an average of more than 

6 Interv ist I & H Off with Brig Gen David H. Blakelock, G-4, Tenth Army, 22 and 27 May 45. 



BEHIND THE FRONT 4II 
800 tons of ammunition was expended daily by Corps units. (See Appendix C, 



Table No. 10.) 



About the middle of April a critical shortage of 155-mm. ammunition 
developed, and on 17 April Tenth Army had to call up four LST's loaded only 
with ammunition for 155-mm. guns and howitzers from the reserves in the 
Marianas. Subsequently, additional emergency requisitions on the reserves were 
necessary. CINCPOA was also requested to divert ammunition resupply ship- 
ments from canceled operations, as well as some originally intended for the 
European Theater of Operations, to Okinawa in order to alleviate the shortages. 
On 21 May Tenth Army had to request an emergency air shipment of 50,000 
rounds of 81-mm. mortar ammunition, of which more than 26,000 rounds were 
received between 28 May and 9 June. 

However, the expenditure of large-caliber ammunition (75-mm. and larger) 
on the average was within 1 percent of the over-all requirements estimated in the 
planning phase. Of the total of 2,116,691 rounds expended (including 350,339 
rounds lost to the enemy), the greatest expenditure was in 105-mm. howitzer 
ammunition, with 1,104,630 rounds fired and an additional 225,507 rounds lost 



to the enemy. (See Appendix C, Table No. 8 and |Chart No. 4.I) Although this 



exceeded the total estimated requirements for 105-mm. howitzer ammunition by 
nearly 8 percent, the expenditure was well within the limits of available supply 
for the period. 

Shortages of 4.2-inch chemical mortar ammunition, resulting in large part 
from an unusual percentage of defective fuses, were overcome by the use of 
surplus Navy stocks and by air shipments of replacement fuzes. 

The supply of aviation gas on the island always bordered on the critical. 
Although no air missions had to be canceled, generally the two airfields barely 
had enough gas to carry out all scheduled missions. The relative scarcity of 
aviation gas was due principally to slow unloading and the lack of bulk storage 
facilities ashore. Gas tanks were not completed until the end of April; until 
then gas had to be brought ashore in drums and cans — a slow, laborious process. 
The use of DUKW's to take gas directly from the ships to the fields materially 
expedited unloading. Reserves on hand, however, were never plentiful, and, 
when a tanker failed to arrive on schedule at the end of April, Tenth Army 
had to call on the Navy to supply the gas for land-based aircraft from fleet 
tankers. 7 



T See Tenth Army Tactical Air Force Actn Rpt, 12 Jul 45, 6-IV-2, 3. 



412 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The loss of light and medium tanks during the campaign, much heavier 
than had been expected, caused another critical shortage and replacements could 
not be secured in time. Tenth Army reported the complete loss of 147 medium 
tanks and 4 light tanks by 30 June; replacements were requested from Oahu on 
28 April but these had not arrived by the end of the campaign. As an emer- 
gency measure, all the medium tanks of the 193d Tank Battalion, attached to 
the 27th Division, were distributed to the other tank battalions on the island. 
XXIV Corps tank units received fifty of these tanks which contributed mate- 
rially to combat effectiveness. The 193d, however, could not be reequipped and 
returned to combat. 

Hospitalization and Evacuation 

Hospitalization and evacuation facilities for battle casualties on Okinawa 
were also strained by the fierce and costly battle against the Japanese defenses, 
resulting in higher battle casualties than had been expected. (See Appendix C, 
Table No. 3.] The nonbattle casualties, however, were much lower than antici- 
pated, and the low incidence of disease, with the corresponding reduction of 
the use of facilities for these long-term cases, provided welcome hospital and 
surgical facilities for the large number of wounded. 8 

In the normal course of events on Okinawa, a man hit on the battlefield 
was delivered by a collecting company, in a jeep ambulance, weasel, or weapons 
carrier, to a battalion aid station located from two to four hundred yards behind 
the lines. After treatment he was carried by standard or jeep ambulance to a 
collecting station, the first installation equipped to give whole-blood trans- 
fusions. The next stop was the division clearing station, to which portable 
surgical hospitals were attached. Finally, the patient would reach a field hospital, 
from four to six thousand yards behind the front. Evacuation to the field hos- 
pitals functioned satisfactorily on Okinawa until the end of May, when the 
heavy rains made the roads impassable. Evacuations from the divisions south 
of Naha-Yonabaru ceased. It became necessary to evacuate casualties by LST 
from Yonabaru on the east coast on 2 June and from Machinato on the west 

8 The account of medical activities on Okinawa is based on the following sources: Tenth Army Actn 
Rpt, n-IV-28, 29, and Ch. n, Sec. XV; Surgeon USAFMIDPAC, Administrative History of Medical Activities 
in the Middle Pacific, Block i8f: The Okinawa Operation, i Apr to 30 Jim 45, 2 vols; XXIV Corps Actn 
Rpt, pp. 72-79; Island Command Okinawa Actn Rpt, Ch. 8, Sec. XIV; 7th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 60-63, 74; 
77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa, pp. 73-76; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. IX, pp. 19-21; interv 1st I & H Off with 
Col F. B. Westervelt, Tenth Army Surgeon, 31 May 45. 




MOVEMENT OF WOUNDED on Okinawa was difficult. Wounded had to be carried 
part of the way by stretcher before they could be placed on ambulance jeeps taking them 
to hospital ships or field hospitals. 




4 i4 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



coast on 31 May. By 10 June water evacuation from XXIV Corps zone had been 
extended south to Minatoga. In the III Amphibious Corps sector at Itoman 
water evacuation was not feasible because of the reef and enemy fire. As a 
result, evacuation by L-5 artillery liaison planes was instituted. The planes 
landed on a stretch of concrete highway just north of Itoman and delivered the 
patients to Chatan. On 15 June air evacuation of XXIV Corps casualties from 
Minatoga was begun. By the end of June, 1,232 casualties had been evacuated 
by cub planes to the field hospitals. 

By the end of April six field hospitals and one Marine evacuation hospital, 
with a total bed capacity of 3,000, were in operation. At the end of the campaign 
on 21 June available hospital beds for combat casualties had increased to only 
3,929, in addition to 500 convalescent beds and 1,802 garrison beds. The small 
number of beds was chiefly responsible for the policy, applied in the first six 
weeks of the campaign, of immediately evacuating casualties to the Marianas. 
As a result of this policy many so-called "white" casualties, that is, casual- 
ties requiring two weeks or less of hospitalization, were evacuated from the 
island and lost to their units for considerable periods of time. On 16 May, 
in an attempt to stop this wholesale evacuation of a valuable source of 
trained replacements, Tenth Army instructed the hospitals to hold "white" 
cases to the limit of their capacity. Both corps tried to stem the losses by estab- 
lishing convalescent camps — XXIV Corps on 6 May and III Amphibious Corps 
on 29 May. These camps alleviated conditions but hospital facilities continued 
to be strained after each of the great offensives. On 26 and 27 May all evacuation 
from Okinawa was suspended: the heavy rains made the airfields unusable, 
and no hospital ships were available for surface evacuation. The hospital bed 
situation was critical until air evacuation was resumed on 28 May. A total of 
30,848 patients, or almost 80 percent of all battle casualties, was evacuated from 
Okinawa by 30 June — about half by air and half by ship. 

Neuropsychiatric or "combat fatigue" cases were probably greater in num- 
ber and severity in the Okinawa campaign than in any other Pacific operation. 
Such cases resulted primarily from the length and bitterness of the fighting, 
together with heavy hostile artillery and mortar fire. The influx of from three 
to four thousand cases crowded the field hospitals and resulted in needless 
evacuations from the island. Treatment was instituted as far forward as possible 
in the hope of making it more effective as well as of retarding the flow to 
hospitals. Rest camps for neuropsychiatric cases were established by divisions in 
addition to the corps installations. On 25 April Tenth Army opened one field 



BEHIND THE FRONT 



415 



hospital to handle only such cases. Early treatment produced good results. About 
half of the cases were finally treated in divisional installations; the other half, 
comprising the more serious cases, were treated in the field hospitals. About 80 
percent of the latter were returned to duty in ten days, but half of these had 
to be reassigned to noncombat duties. 

Fears that Okinawa was a disease-ridden island where the health of Amer- 
ican troops would be gravely menaced proved unfounded. Surveys made in 
April revealed no schistosomiasis or scrub typhus and very little malaria; about 
30 percent of the natives, however, were found to be infected with filariasis. 
Institution of sanitation control measures, such as DDT spraying from the air 
at 7- to 10-day intervals and the attachment of disease control units to combat 
organizations, helped, together with the general favorable climatic conditions, 
to prevent large-scale outbreaks of communicable diseases on the island. As a 
result the net disease rate for the troops on Okinawa was very low. 

Military Government 

One of the most puzzling questions confronting the planners of the 
Okinawa operation had been the probable attitude of the civilian population. 
It was very soon apparent that the behavior of the Okinawans would pose no 
problems. In the first place, only the less aggressive elements of the populace 
remained, for the Japanese Army had conscripted almost all males between the 
ages of fifteen and forty-five. Many of those who came into the lines were in the 
category of displaced persons before the invasion began, having moved north- 
ward from Naha and Shuri some time before. Others had been made homeless 
as the fighting passed through their villages. Casualties among civilians had 
been surprisingly light, most of them having sought the protection of the caves, 
and some, including whole families, having taken refuge in deep wells. 

The initial landings brought no instances on Okinawa of mass suicide of 
civilians as there had been on the Kerama Islands, although some, particularly 
of the older inhabitants, had believed the Japanese terror propaganda and were 
panic-stricken when taken into American custody. While there appeared to be 
only a few cases of communicable diseases and little malaria, most civilians, 
living in overcrowded and unsanitary caves, were infested with lice and fleas. 

A frugal and industrious people, with a low standard of living and little 
education, the Okinawans docilely made the best of the disaster which had 
overtaken them. With resignation they allowed themselves to be removed from 




MILITARY GOVERNMENT set up headquarters in Shimabu\u at beginning of the 
Okinawa campaign. Tent City (upper left) was quickly established, and registration of 
military-age civilians was started (upper right). Many 0\inawan men (lower left) were 
given jobs carrying supplies to American troops, while others (lower right) helped to 
distribute food supplies to displaced persons. 




BEHIND THE FRONT 



4 X 7 



their homes and their belongings to the special camp areas which soon sup- 
planted the initial stockades as places of detention. 9 The principal areas chosen 
initially for civilian occupation were Ishikawa and the Katchin Peninsula in 
the north, and Koza, Shimabuku, and Awase in the south. Military Govern- 
ment supplied the minimum necessities of existence — food, water, clothing, shel- 
ter, medical care, and sanitation. Food stores sufficient to take care of civilian 
needs for from two to four weeks were discovered; additional quantities were 
available in the fields. Growing crops were harvested on a communal basis under 
American direction. Horses, cows, pigs, goats, and poultry, running wild after 
eluding the invading troops, were rounded up and turned over to the civilian 
camps. 

There was no occasion for use of the occupation currency with which 
American troops had been supplied, in exchange for dollars, before landing; 
no price or wage economy existed in the zone of occupation. For a time the 
population had to devote its energies solely to the problems of existence. 

Control of civilians on Okinawa was vested in a Military Government Sec- 
tion whose operation was a command function of Tenth Army. The organiza- 
tion provided for four types of detachments, each consisting of a number of 
teams. The first type accompanied assault divisions and conducted preliminary 
reconnaissance; the second organized Military Government activities behind the 
fighting front; the third administered the refugee civilian camps; and the fourth 
administered the Military Government districts. It proved difficult to secure 
adequate numbers of certain types of personnel for Military Government, 
especially interpreters who were sufficiently skilled in the Japanese language. 
Before the invasion seventy-five men were assigned for this duty; when it became 
apparent that this number was insufficient, an additional allotment of ninety- 
five interpreters was secured. As the campaign progressed, minor shortages of 
cooks, military police, and medical corpsmen developed in the camps for dis- 
placed civilians. In spite of these shortages, detachments that were originally 
designed to operate camps containing 10,000 civilians often found it necessary 
to care for as many as 20,000. 

The number of Okinawans under control of Military Government rose 
rapidly in the first month of the invasion until by the end of April it amounted 
to 126,876. Because of the stalemate at the Shuri lines the increase during May 
was gradual, the total number of civilians at the beginning of June being 144,331. 



See above JpT 83. | 




DEVELOPMENT OF AIRFIELD at Kadena (photographed 20 April 1945) was rapid. 




REHABILITATION OF PORT at Naha was in progress when this picture was ta\en, 
19 June 1945. 



BEHIND THE FRONT 



419 



But during the first three weeks of June, after the break-through on the Shuri 
line, the number again rose sharply until, at the conclusion of the fighting, the 
Okinawans under Military Government totaled approximately io^ooo. 11 ' 

Base Development 

The purpose of the base development plans for Okinawa and Ie Shima was 
the construction of advance fleet and air bases and staging facilities for future 
operations. Initially, however, all construction work was directed to the support 
of the assault troops. Main supply and dump roads were improved, Yontan and 
Kadena airfields were put into operation, and work was begun on the construc- 
tion of bulk storage facilities for gasoline with offshore connections to tankers. 11 

In the original plans many more islands in the Ryukyus chain had been 
selected for capture and development as American bases, particularly for aircraft. 
No less than five additional islands — Okino Daito, Kume, Miyako, Kikai, and 
Tokuno — had been scheduled for invasion in Phase III of ICEBERG and were 
to be developed as fighter and B-29 bases and radar stations. In the course of 
time, as reconnaissance revealed that some of the islands were unsuitable for the 
purposes intended, plans for their capture were canceled. Of the five, only Kume 
was taken, on 26 June, and not for use as an air base but in order to enlarge the 
air warning net for the Okinawa island group. 

The cancellation of the Phase III projects greatly affected the plans for base 
development on Okinawa and Ie Shima. In some cases most of the resources and 
troops intended for the abandoned operations were made available for the work 
on Okinawa. At the same time, however, some of the airfield construction 
projects were also transferred, thereby sizeably increasing the task of the Oki- 
nawa construction troops. In one case favorable estimates of construction possi- 
bilities on Okinawa and Ie Shima were responsible in large part for the decision 
to abandon one of the most important operations planned for Phase III — the 
Miyako operation. On 9 April Tenth Army reported to Admiral Nimitz that a 
detailed reconnaissance of the terrain of Okinawa revealed excellent airfield 
sites for Very Long Range bombers (VLR) on the island. As a result, Admiral 

10 Tenth Army, G-4 Periodic Reports, Ryukyus Campaign, for the following dates: 4 and 10 May 45, 
4 and 25 Jun 45. 

11 Sources for the discussion of base development problems are as follows: Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 1—0—2, 
3; n-IV-6, 7, 24-28; ii-IX-io, 13; USAFPOA Participation in Okinawa Operations, I, 45-46, 167; 
USAFMIDPAC G-5 History, pp. 235-61; Island Command Okinawa Actn Rpt, Ch. 8, Sec. X; interv 1st 
I & H Off with Commodore A. G. Bissett, Commander Island Command Construction Troops, 19 May 45. 



420 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Nimitz recommended to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the seizure of Miyako 
Island for development as a VLR bomber base be abandoned in favor of a more 
intensive construction program for Okinawa and Ie Shima. The Joint Chiefs 
approved and the Miyako operation was canceled on 26 April. Accordingly, base 
development plans were changed to provide for 18 air strips on Okinawa and 
4 on Ie Shima, instead of the 8 and 2 originally planned respectively for the two 
islands. Construction of fields on Okinawa was to center on the provision of facil- 
ities for B-29 operations, while Ie Shima was to be developed primarily as a base 
for VLR fighter escorts. 

There was concern over interruptions to the progress of the greatly expanded 
Okinawa program. The extremely heavy rains at the end of May practically 
stopped all construction work until about 15 June, as troops working on the air- 
fields had to be diverted to maintenance of the main supply roads to the assault 
troops. Although the cancellation of the Miyako project made available more 
men for the base program on Okinawa, only 31,400 of the 80,000 construction 
troops needed had reached the island by 22 June 1945. It was impossible to keep 
abreast of scheduled dates of completion. The delays in unloading and failure 
to uncover airfields and ports on schedule also contributed to the delay in the 
base development program. 

Work on fighter airfields was initially given the highest priority in order to 
provide land-based air cover during the assault. By 10 April Kadena and Yontan 
airfields had been reconditioned for successful operations. American engineers 
found that the Japanese airfields were poorly constructed, being surfaced with 
only a thin layer of coral rock and lacking adequate drainage. The runways had 
to be completely rebuilt, with a foot of coral surfacing added. By the end of May 
construction was in progress on ten different bomber and fighter strips on Oki- 
nawa and Ie Shima. Of these only the fields at Yontan and Kadena and one of 
the fighter strips on Ie Shima were near completion. The first American air 
strip built on Okinawa was the 7,000-foot medium bomber runway at Yontan, 
completed on 17 June. By the end of June a 7,500-foot VLR strip at Kadena was 
25 percent complete, two 5,000-foot fighter strips at Awase and Chimu were 
ready for operation, an 8,500-foot VLR strip at Zampa Point was 15 percent com- 
plete, and construction was under way for VLR and medium-bomber strips at 
Futema and Machinato. 

Harbor development began at the end of April with the construction of a 
500-foot ponton barge pier on the Katchin Peninsula at Buckner Bay. Tern- 



BEHIND THE FRONT 



421 



porary ponton barge piers were built at other sites on the bay — at Kin on Chimu 
Bay, at Machinato, and at the mouth of the Bishi River. By the end of June an 
800-foot ponton barge pier was under construction at Yonabaru. Preparations for 
building permanent ship piers and cargo berths were also under way. At Naha 
troops had begun clearing the harbor of wrecks and debris at the beginning of 
June; several months would be required before this work would be completed 
and Naha could serve as a major port. 

By the end of the Okinawa campaign the full realization of the plans for 
the development of major air and naval bases in the Ryukyus still lay in the 
future. Most of the airfields would not be completed for two or three months, 
although fighters were flying from some to attack Kyushu. The naval base in 
Buckner Bay was far from complete when the war ended. It was not until the 
last night of the war that Okinawa-based B-29's carried out their first and last 
offensive mission against the Japanese homeland. 



CHAPTER XVII 

The Enemy's Last Stand 



"Ushijima missed the boat on his withdrawal from the Shuri Line," General 
Buckner declared on 31 May as he re-formed his ranks for the pursuit and final 
destruction of the yid Army. "It's all over now but cleaning up pockets of resist- 
ance. This doesn't mean there won't be stiff fighting but the Japs won't be able 
to organize another line." Other officers also did not credit the enemy with 
the ability to execute an orderly withdrawal. 1 This optimism proved soon to be 
largely unfounded. It was to be learned that the enemy had withdrawn his 
forces from Shuri effectively and in time to organize a new line in the south. 
The enemy's maneuver, though it did not result in setting up a formidable line 
of defense, was to necessitate more than three crowded weeks of pursuit and 
fighting by the American troops to bring organized resistance to an end. 



The Push South to the Y aeju-Dake-Y 'uza-Da\e Barrier 

On 31 May General Buckner extended the Army boundary along the road 
joining the villages of Chan, Iwa, and Gushichan. He ordered his two corps to 
complete the encirclement of Shuri in order to cut the remaining Japanese troops 
into large segments. General Buckner and his staff still hoped to isolate a large 
portion of the yid Army and prevent its withdrawal from Shuri; thus the two 
corps were directed to converge at Chan "in order to pocket enemy north this 
point." Ill Amphibious Corps was then to secure Naha and its airfield while 
XXIV Corps drove rapidly southeast to prevent the enemy from retiring into the 
Chinen Peninsula. General Buckner expected the Japanese, without skilled men 
or adequate transportation or communications, and hindered by boggy roads, to 
experience trouble and disorder during their mass retreat. 2 

Mud was a major concern of American commanders. Nearly twelve inches 
of rain had fallen during the last ten days of May and more was expected 
during the first part of June. Although 400 trucks had been used on 30 May 
to dump coral and rubble into the mudholes on Route 5, the main north-south 



1 Notes of Tenth Army Staff Meeting, in Okinawa Diary kept by Stevens and Burns, 31 May 45. 

2 Ibid., 30 May 45; Tenth Army Opns Order No. 12-45, 3 1 May 45. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



road through the center of Okinawa, it was closed the following day to all but 
the most essential traffic. Other supply routes along the east and west coasts 
were in almost impassable condition. At the time when General Buckner ordered 
his troops to "drive rapidly," supply trucks were moving toward the front only 
as fast as they could be dragged by winches or bulldozers through the numerous 
quagmires. Units on each flank were using boats or amphibian tractors to 
transport supplies from rear areas to forward dumps, but they still faced the 
problem of moving food and ammunition from the beaches to the front-line 
foxholes. Center divisions were under a still greater strain. Much of the ammu- 
nition, food, and water was carried forward by reserve units — sometimes by 
men from the assault companies. 

"We had awfully tough luck," said General Buckner, "to get the bad 
weather at the identical time that things broke." His deputy chief of staff con- 
sidered the mud to be as great a deterrent to the attack as a large-scale enemy 
counterattack. 3 

The Japanese Mahe Their 'Escape 

The XXIV Corps occupied the southernmost positions of the American 
front. General Hodge shifted the 7th Division toward the east and ordered the 
96th to move south, relieve the 32d Infantry, and take up the western end of 
the Corps line. The 77th Division became responsible for protecting the rear 
of the 96th and for mopping up the part of the Shuri line which was in the 
XXIV Corps sector. By evening of 31 May, the 7th and 96th Divisions reached 
the Corps' objective, and they were ready to start south on the following 
morning. 4 

The lines of the III Amphibious Corps stretched from Shuri to a point 
1,000 yards southeast of Naha; its nearest position was more than 3,000 yards 
from the dominating ground near Chan where General Buckner still hoped 
to converge spearheads of his two corps and to reduce Ushijima's force to 
segments. This hope disappeared by the night of 31 May, when the performance 
of the 96th and 7th Divisions indicated that General Ushijima had already 
accomplished his sly withdrawal despite the difficulties of mud and communi- 
cations. When it became apparent that the Japanese withdrawal had frustrated 
American hopes of splitting the enemy forces, Tenth Army revised its plans 

3 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 496; Notes of Tenth Army Staff Meeting, in Okinawa Diary 
kept by Stevens and Burns, 30 and 31 May 45. 

4 XXIV Corps FO No. 52, 31 May 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 490; XXIV Corps G-3 
Periodic Rpt, 31 May 45. 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



and permitted the III Amphibious Corps to attack down the west coast and 



the 7th Division to proceed down the east flank. 5 [(See Map No. XLVI.) 

When the attack toward the south began on the first day of June, it was 
planned that the Marines should destroy the remaining Japanese rather than 
isolate them. Patrols from the III Amphibious Corps soon discovered that only 
a thin shell of defenses remained near Shuri. General Geiger decided, therefore, 
to push the 1st Marine Division directly south to seal the base of Oroku Penin- 
sula, and he also made plans for an amphibious landing by the 6th Marine 
Division on the tip of the peninsula. 6 

Four miles south of the front line loomed another coral escarpment, the 
largest on the Okinawa battlefield. This was the Yuza-Dake-Yaeju-Dake, 
which formed a great wall across the southern end of the island that had been 
visible since the early days of the campaign. The central part of the island 
between the American front lines of 31 May and the Yaeju-Dake consisted of a 
series of comparatively small rounded hills and uneven low ridges; a few larger 
hills stretched across the base of the Oroku Peninsula on the west side of the 
island. The highest hills south of the landing beaches were on the east side of 
southern Okinawa and on Chinen Peninsula, which consisted entirely of hilly 
ground except for the narrow strip of flat land at the shore. 
Pursuit in the Mud 

Dense fog banks covered southern Okinawa on the morning of 1 June. 
Visibility extended for only a few yards and mud was ankle-deep as the 
Americans attacked south to catch up with Ushijima's escaped army before it 
should have time to burrow into a new defensive line. On 1 June the Japanese 
defended two hills in front of the 7th Division, and during 1-2 June they 
made a solid stand in the zone of the 96th near Chan. Otherwise there was only 
spotty resistance of delaying and nuisance value until 6 June. On that day the 
pace of the American troops was retarded by vigorous enemy action to the 
front and by the overextension of the supply lines of the front-line units. 7 

Most of the hills were either defended by thin enemy forces or had been 
completely abandoned, and a lack of skill was noticeable among the enemy troops 
encountered. As American troops approached their positions the Japanese of- 

5 Interv ist I & H Off with Lt Col J. R. Weaver, ACofS, G-2, Tenth Army, 5 Jun 45. 
The III Amph Corps Opns Ord No. 15-45, 1 J un 45> m accordance with Tenth Army Opns Ord 
No. 12-45, 3 1 May 45, directed the marines to join with XXIV Corps elements near Chan. This was not done, 
however, when it was realized that the bulk of enemy troops had escaped to the south. Statement of Capt 
James R. Stockman, USMC, Marine Corps Historian, 6 May 46. 

7 Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 381-84; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 171-72. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



fered ineffectual fire until the attack drew close, and then frequently tried to 
escape by running across open ground. They became easy targets for riflemen 
and machine gunners, who were quick to see and respect skill in their opponents 
and as quick to feel disdain for spiritless mediocrity. S/Sgt. Lowell E. McSpad- 
den, a member of the 383d Infantry, expressed the attitude of the infantrymen 
toward these inferior troops when he stepped up behind two Japanese soldiers 
without being seen, tapped one on the shoulder, and then shot both with a .45- 
caliber pistol which he had borrowed for the purpose. 8 

After the first day of the pursuit, rain was more troublesome and constant 
than enemy interference. The 184th Infantry waded south and east over the 
green and rain-soaked hills on Chinen Peninsula against light opposition that 
indicated an absence of enemy plans for a defense of that area. General Arnold, 
moving to speed up operations, committed the 32d Infantry to patrolling the 
northern part of the peninsula. 9 Late in the afternoon of 3 June, patrols from the 
1 st Battalion, 184th, reached the southeast coast of Okinawa near the town of 
Hyakuna and completed the 7th Division's first mission. It had been, General 
Buckner said, a magnificent performance. 10 

General Hodge doubted that his corps could have continued its pace had it 
not been for previous experience in the marshes of Leyte. 11 Only flimsy resistance 
faced the 1st Marine Division, but its supply system had collapsed and the bat- 
talions had to rely upon air drops or carrying parties. By 3 June the gap in depth 
between the two corps had increased to 3,000 yards, and the 383d Infantry was 
subjected to harassing fire from its exposed right flank. To protect his corps' 
flank, General Hodge sent the 305th Infantry, 77th Division, south to fill the 
increasing void. 12 
Toward the Yaeju-Da\e 

In the meantime the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, crossing the Corps bound- 
ary north of Chan, attacked southwest through Tera and secured Hill 57 and the 
high ground south of Gisushi, thus reducing the gap to 1,000 yards. 

With the elimination of possible defensive terrain on Chinen Peninsula 
and in central southern Okinawa, it was becoming evident by the evening of 
3 June that General Ushijima intended to stage his final stand on the southern 

8 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, p. 173. 

9 Gugeler, 7th Div History, p. 384. 

10 Notes of Tenth Army Staff Meeting, in Okinawa Diary kept by Stevens and Burns, 4 Jun 45. 

11 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 515. 

12 Stockman, 1st Mar Div History; III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 1 Jun 45; Appleman, XXIV 
Corps History, p. 503. 




MUD AND SUPPLY were major problems in pursuing the Japanese southward from 
Shuri. Success depended largely on ability to move American supplies over bad roads. 
Tractor (above) is pulling a reconnaissance car uphill from portable bridge in the hollow. 
When roads became impassable to motor vehicles ( below ), horses were used. 




THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



tip of the island, almost certainly on the Yaeju-Dake Escarpment, which lay 
within the zone of the III Amphibious Corps. Moreover, if the XXIV Corps 
maintained its pace for one or two days longer, as seemed likely, it would have 
secured its portion of southern Okinawa. In order to deny the enemy a breathing 
spell before the final period of combat, General Buckner shifted the Corps' bound- 
ary to the west so that the entire escarpment fell within the zone of the XXIV 
Corps. Effective at noon on 4 June, the boundary between the corps changed 
from the road connecting Iwa with Gushichan to the road connecting Iwa with 



Yuza, Ozato, and Komesu. 15 (See Map No. XLVII.) 



Shifting their direction of attack on 4 June to the southwest, General Hodge's 
troops moved across the small, tidy fields, the rice paddies along the sea, and the 
hills luxuriantly green from the continuing spring rains. By midafternoon the 
7th Division had secured more than 6,000 yards of coast line and had reached the 
soggy banks of the Minatoga River. Infantrymen waded the swollen stream, the 
only bridge having been destroyed. The 96th joined on the west to extend the 
Corps line from Minatoga to Iwa. To the south the Japanese had prepared the 
outposts of their next important line, which was to be their last. Behind the 
American lines the supply routes, now stretched beyond an unbridged river, 
were strained to the limit. Commanders immediately explored the possibilities 
of landing supplies at Minatoga. During the several days that followed, the 
American troops crowded steadily but more cautiously forward against a heavy 
and determined opposition that was reminiscent of previous fighting and sug- 
gested that the enemy's last line was close at hand. 14 



The Capture of Oro\u "Peninsula 

It was only by chance and whim that the Oroku Peninsula was defended 
by the Japanese after the Shuri line was abandoned. Before 1 April enemy naval 
units were responsible for this two-by-three-mile peninsula and the installations 
emplaced there to protect the airfield and the city of Naha. A few days before 
the American landings took place, but after the threat of invasion made it either 
impossible or unnecessary for the naval units to continue with their more 
specific missions, they were consolidated under the Okinawa Base Force. Most 
of the Navy personnel congregated on Oroku Peninsula. The Okinawa Base 

13 Tenth Army Opns Ord No. 13-45, 4 Jun 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 503-04. 
14 Gugeler, 7th Div History, p. 386. 



428 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Minoru Ota, was in turn responsible to 
the jid Army, toward which Ota adopted a policy of complete cooperation. 15 

The total strength of enemy naval units on Okinawa was originally nearly 
10,000 men; less than a third of that number, however, belonged to the Jap- 
anese Navy, the majority being either recently inducted civilians or Home 
Guards. Of the men who made up the construction units, the naval air units, 
the Midget Submarine Unit, and the other organizations that became a part of 
the Base Force, only two or three hundred had received more than superficial 
training for land warfare. None of these naval units participated in combat until 
the counterattack of 4 May, when a limited number of naval troops were sent 
to the front line and sustained very high casualties. Other units were subse- 
quently fed into the front lines. The yjth Torpedo Maintenance Unit was almost 
completely destroyed when, with three times as many men as rifles, it entered 
the fighting at Shuri and Yonabaru toward the end of May. 

The greatest misfortune affecting the ultimate fate of the enemy naval 
forces occurred at the time of the mass exodus from Shuri. The $zd Army head- 
quarters directed all naval troops to fall back on 28 May to a new defense area, 
near the coastal town of Nagusuku. Because of an ambiguously worded order, 
the remaining men of the Base Force destroyed most of the weapons and equip- 
ment which they were unable to carry ; they then moved south on 26 May, two 
days before they were scheduled to withdraw. When they arrived at their 
assigned area they found it totally unsuited to the type of fighting for which 
they were prepared, as well as inferior to the area they had just left. Disgusted 
with their new sector, the young officers asked Ota for permission to return 
to Oroku "to fight and die at the place where we built positions and where we 
were so long to die [sic] in that one part of the island which really belonged 
to the Navy." Advocates of independent action by the Navy succeeded in per- 
suading Ota of the advisability of returning the troops to Oroku. Without 
consulting the Army Ota ordered the troops back on 28 May, and the return 
was effected that night. Naval troops numbering about 2,000 returned to their 
former positions. Some Navy personnel stayed in the south to fight on the 
Yuza-Dake or Yaeju-Dake line; the rest of the original 10,000 had been used 
up in the previous combat. 

Naha airfield, the largest and most important which the Japanese had 
constructed on Okinawa, was at the northern end of a strip of flat land on the 

15 The account of the disposition of Admiral Ota's forces is taken from Tenth Army PW Interrog 
Summary No. i6, 28 Jul 45: Naval Units on Okinawa; Int Monograph, Pt. II, Sec. A: Oroku Hanto. 




ADVANCING TO YAEJU-DAKE through the Iwa area, American tan\ passes burning 
native house, fired to lessen danger from snipers. Below is seen a patrol of the 381st Infantry, 
g6th Division, moving south toward Yaeju-Da^e. 





LAST POINT OF RESISTANCE in the Oro\u Peninsula was Hill 57, shown above in 
panorama. Below is a close-up of a concrete emplacement ( dotted outline in photo above) 
after it had been blasted open by Marine artillery fire. 




THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



431 



west side of Oroku Peninsula. The rest of the peninsula was wrinkled with 
ridges and hills up to 200 feet in height but was lacking in any pattern or 
dominant terrain features. Between the hills were valleys planted in sugar cane 
and other dry crops; the valleys had been sown with mines and were carefully 
covered by automatic weapons firing from camouflaged cave openings. 
An Amphibious Assault 

A shore-to-shore movement would offer suitable landing beaches and orient 
the American attack in the direction that afforded the best use of supporting 
artillery. This plan of attacking from the sea would also provide for supply by 
sea, made necessary by the break-down of roads. Therefore General Shepherd, 
commander of the 6th Marine Division, ordered the 4th Marines, followed by 
the 29th, to make a landing. Planning and organization had been completed 
by the evening of 3 June. At 0445 on the following morning supporting artillery 
began an hour-long preparation during which 4,300 shells fell on the high 
ground in front of the landing beaches. With amphibian tanks in the lead the 
1st Battalion, 4th Marines, embarked from the assembly area north of the Asato 
River and headed south toward the northern point of the Oroku Peninsula. The 
formation was partially broken when some of the amphibian tractors, which 
had been used by the marines to haul supplies to the front during the rainy 
period, failed after getting under way, leaving elements of the assault force 
stranded in the water. There was only light fire, however, when the first troops 
stepped ashore a few minutes before 0600 and the men hurried inland to carve 
out a beachhead sufficiently large to warrant landing the remainder of the 
force. An hour and a half after the landing the two assault battalions were 900 
yards inland, and twenty-four tanks and four self-propelled guns were ashore; 
by 1000 the 29th Marines was ordered to land and take up the north end of the 
division line. The landing was proceeding satisfactorily. 16 

As the 4th Marines landed on the north point of Oroku the 6th Recon- 
naissance Company seized Ono-Yama, a small island in the center of the Naha 
Inlet which formed the anchor for two destroyed bridges linking Naha to the 
peninsula. A few defenders were killed, and the island was in American hands 
an hour after the assault commenced. Replacement of the bridges, necessary to 
provide adequate logistical support, was hindered by Japanese machine-gun 
and 20-mm. shell fire, and it was not until the following day that the final 
sections of a ponton bridge were floated into place. 

10 The account of the operations of 6th Mar Div on Oroku is taken from 6th Mar Div Special Actn Rpt 
Phase III, Ch. Ill and App. Ill; and Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, Ch. III. 



432 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Mud, Mines, and Machine Guns 

At the end of the first day assault battalions, 1,800 yards beyond the point 
of the landing, faced stabilized enemy fire power from a wealth of automatic 
weapons varying from light machine guns to 40-mm. cannons. It was later 
learned that many of these weapons had been stripped from damaged planes, 
adapted for use by ground troops, and, with painstaking care, hidden under- 
ground behind narrow, camouflaged firing ports that overlooked the mine- 
sown valleys and other approaches to the defended hills. The 10-day battle for 
Oroku Peninsula is the story of a half-trained enemy force, poor in standard 
weapons, organization, and hope of eventual success, but possessed of abundant 
automatic fire power, a system of underground positions larger than they could 
man, and a willingness to die in those positions in order to make the Americans 
pay dearly for the ground. 

Gains were slowed down on the second day and came to an abrupt halt 
when the 29th Marines, on the northern flank, hit a hard core on Hill 57 near 
the center of the peninsula. With progress least difficult on the right (south), 
General Shepherd tried to crowd the 4th Marines forward to outflank the 
enemy's positions. The southern end of the line yielded as far as the village 
of Gushi; then the entire line, 4,000 yards long, faced a tight ring of Japanese 
defenses that held the marines to slight gains for two more days, 7 and 8 June. 
Use of tanks was restricted by mud and the widely scattered mine fields, which 
were protected by abundant machine-gun fire. Three platoons of tanks helped 
in the capture of Hill 57 on 7 June, but usually the tanks were bogged in mud 
or fenced off beyond direct-support range by mine fields. In three instances 
when men from the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, were unable to fight their way 
to the top of a hill, they used the extensive tunnel systems and went through the 
hills rather than over them. 

Meanwhile, the 1st Marine Division had freed itself from the mud, and 
on 6 June it was halfway across the base of Oroku Peninsula, closing the gap 
between the two corps but exposing its own west flank. General Shepherd com- 
mitted the Corps reserve, the 22d Marines, sending them south to establish a 
line across the base of the peninsula. This placed elements of the division on 
opposite sides of the Japanese troops on Oroku, and General Shepherd, recog- 
nizing that the logical avenues of entry to the Japanese hill positions were from 
the south and southeast, ordered the 22d to patrol to the northwest and then 
to attack in that direction. The 4th Marines was ordered to attack on the left 
of the 22d's line. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



433 



With three regiments thus engaged in the fight, the division continued to 
concentrate on an encircling move to compress the Japanese on the high ground 
near Tomigusuki. There were no soft spots along the enemy line, and each 
slow advance the marines scored was against machine-gun and 20-mm. and 
40-mm. antiaircraft fire. Fighting proceeded with the same sustained effort by 
both sides through 10 Tune, when the remaining Japanese were confined in an 
area no larger than 1,000 by 2,000 yards. Subjected to extreme pressure, the 
Japanese during the night of 10 June erupted in a series of local counterattacks 
along the entire front. Two hundred enemy dead were scattered along the 
front lines on the following morning. 
End of the 0\inawa Base Force 

General Shepherd struck back at the Japanese at 0730, n June; he employed 
the greater part of eight battalions and supported them with tanks, which after 
several days of clear weather were no longer restricted by mud. This was planned 
as the final blow to break through the enemy resistance. The 29th Marines 
attacking from the west, and the 4th moving from the south, made only slight 
headway; the 22d Marines, after an intense artillery barrage, drove toward Hill 
62 from the southeast. The first attack stopped short of the objective, but, about 
noon, the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, rammed another assault against Hill 62 
while the 3d Battalion moved off for Hill 53, about 300 yards north. The first of 
these objectives fell by 1330, and Hill 53, which afforded observation of the 
remainder of the enemy-held ground, soon afterward. The three regiments held 
a tight ring in an area 1,000 yards square. 

A break-up in the Japanese forces occurred on the following day. As the 
converging forces closed in on the remaining pocket, the Japanese were forced 
from the high ground onto the flat land near the Naha Inlet. Some chose to fight 
until killed; others, including several who lay down on satchel charges and blew 
their bodies high in the air, destroyed themselves. On 12 June and the day follow- 
ing, 159 surrendered — the first large group of Japanese taken prisoner. 

When the destruction of his force was nearly complete, Admiral Ota com- 
mitted suicide. On 15 June, as patrols sought out the last of the Japanese on 
Oroku, the marines found Ota's body and those of five members of his staff lying 
on a raised, mattress-covered platform in one of the passages in the underground 
headquarters. Their throats had been cut, and, from the appearance of the room, 
it was apparent that an aide had carefully arranged the bodies and tidied up after 
the self-destruction of the Japanese officers. Nearly 200 other bodies were found 
in the headquarters, one of the most elaborate underground systems on the 



434 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



island. More than 1,500 feet of tunnels connected the office rooms, which were 
well ventilated, equipped with electricity, and reinforced with concrete door- 
ways and walls. 1 ' 

The slow and tedious battle for Oroku Peninsula had lasted for ten days. 
The total number of marines killed or wounded was 1,608, a cost in casualties 
proportionately greater than the American forces suffered during the fighting 
for Shuri, where they were opposed by General Ushijima's infantrymen. 

Six days before the 6th Marine Division wiped out Admiral Ota's force, and 
four days after the XXIV Corps separated Chinen Peninsula from the rest of the 
battlefield, the 1st Marine Division reached the west coast above Itoman. Besides 
straightening Tenth Army front lines between that village and Gushichan, this 
advance opened a water supply route for the advance elements of the III Am- 
phibious Corps. 18 

Assaulting the Last Defense Line 

When the rainy period on Okinawa ended on 5 June, troops of the XXIV 
Corps occupied a solid line across 6,000 yards of soft clay. Supply was critical and 
was partially dependent upon air drops. Tanks could not operate, and to the 
front, 1,000 or 1,500 yards away, stood the craggy Yaeju-Dake and Yuza-Dake 
hill masses — physical barriers which, together with Hill 95 on the east coast, 
formed a great wall across the entire XXIV Corps sector from Gushichan to 
Yuza. The highest point of this 4-mile-long cliff was the Yaeju-Dake Peak, which 
rose 290 feet above the adjoining valley floor. Because of its shape the troops who 
fought up its slopes named it the "Big Apple." The Yuza-Dake stood at the west 
end of the line and then tapered off into Kunishi Ridge, which extended across 
the III Amphibious Corps' sector. Hill 95, which paralleled rather than crossed 
the direction of attack, formed the eastern anchor. On the seaward side of Hill 
95 there was a 300-foot drop to the water; on the side next to Hanagusuku 
village there was another sheer drop of about 170 feet to the valley floor. The only 
break in this defensive wall was in the 7th Division's sector, where a narrow 
valley pointed south through Nakaza. This approach to the high tableland 
beyond the escarpment cliff was subject to fire and observation from both flanks. 

Between this redoubtable terrain and the front occupied by XXIV Corps on 
the evening of 5 June were a few grassy knolls and numerous small hills scattered 

17 Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt. II, Sec. A: Oroku Hanto. 

18 1st Mar Div Special Actn Rpt, Assault Narrative, Phase III, p. 12. 




BASE OF OROKU PENINSULA, where Okinawa Base Force made its last stand. 



43<5 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



over a generally flat valley. After two weeks of almost continual rain, the valley 
was rich with verdure and thus far only slightly torn by shells and combat. 

General Ushijima's army reached this new defensive area several days 
ahead of the Americans and, by 3 or 4 June, was deployed in the caves and 
crevices in and behind the escarpment wall. The combined strength of yid Army 
infantry units was about 11,000 men. Total enemy strength, however, amounted 
to nearly three times that number. It included personnel from artillery or 
mortar units which no longer possessed weapons; signal, ordnance, airfield con- 
struction, and other units whose normal duties were no longer necessary; and 
conscripted Okinawans whose ability and will to fight did not equal those of 
the regular Japanese soldiers. 19 

About 8,000 men made up the Japanese 24th Division, which, as his strong- 
est unit, General Ushijima stationed in the center and across the west flank from 
Yaeju-Dake to the town of Itoman. The 6zd Division, originally the ^d Army's 
best but now reduced to two or three thousand men, took up reserve positions 
near Makabe. This left only the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade to defend the 
eastern part of the enemy's final line facing the 7th Division. Around these 
three original major combat units General Ushijima grouped the remaining 
service and labor troops, scattered naval personnel, and Okinawan conscripts. 
Thus, with a heterogenous army lacking in adequate training, artillery support, 
communications, and equipment and supplies, General Ushijima waited for the 
final battle. His headquarters took only a 20-day supply of rations when it moved 
from Shuri to the southern tip of the island — an indication of his own appraisal 
of his army's capabilities. 

Both sides watched warily and prepared for the Americans' next assault. 
The state of supply, the condition of the narrow roads linking assault elements 
with supply dumps at Yonabaru, and the lack of armored and direct-fire 
weapons prevented an immediate large-scale attack by the XXIV Corps. Amer- 
ican commanders probed the enemy line with patrols, regrouped their forces, 
and assembled necessary supplies through the little port of Minatoga, which 
was in operation by 8 June. 20 

39 The account of Japanese strength on southern Okinawa at this time is taken from Tenth Army Int 
Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. B; Interrog Yahara; Interrog Shimada; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 493—96, 
518-19; and Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 376—77. The Japanese strength as given in the text is only 
an estimate; accurate statistics are not available. While the figures for the f)2d and 24th Divisions and the 
44th Independent Mixed Brigade are reasonably accurate, the number of other enemy troops was roughly 
estimated. 

20 XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 32. 




HILL 95, near Yaeju-Da\e, with Gushichan in foreground. 



438 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Locating Enemy Strength 

One of these probing actions made a slight penetration of the enemy's line 
and soon revealed the nature and volume of the enemy fire power protecting 
the final Japanese line. Nearest the Big Apple Peak was the 381st Infantry, first 
to venture into the Yaeju-Dake and the first to be driven back. West of the 
Big Apple was a secondary escarpment, like a step, about halfway to the top. 
Col. Michael E. Halloran ordered the 1st Battalion to explore this area and, if 
possible, to seize a lodgment on the lower part of the escarpment which would 
permit an attack against the Big Apple from the west and against the flank of 
the enemy's most dominating fortification. 21 

On the morning of 6 June the battalion commander, Maj. V. H. Thompson, 
leapfrogged his companies through Yunagusuku against only half-hearted op- 
position and then sent Company B, under Capt. John E. Byers, forward to test 
the escarpment wall. Three squad-sized patrols crept through bands of fire from 
machine guns, some of which were so far inside caves that they could not be 
destroyed with grenades, and reached the lower of the two escarpments. The rest 
of the company followed, and Thompson ordered Company C to move abreast 
and left of Byers' men. It was midafternoon, and the first attempt at penetration 
of this largest escarpment on Okinawa was proceeding with promise of success. 
Company C started across the open rice paddies to the base of the cliff, and 
Company B moved up a steep trail leading to the intermediate level of the escarp- 
ment. This movement went beyond the line of enemy delaying action and into 
the area where General Ushijima had ordered his army to "bring all its might 
to bear" to break up the American attack and exact a heavy toll of the attacking 
force. "To this end," he instructed, "the present position will be defended to the 
death, even to the last man. Needless to say, retreat is forbidden." 2:2 

The Japanese waited patiently until both companies were in a belt of pre- 
registered fire, then opened up with machine guns and 20-mm. dual purpose 
guns in sufficient quantity to lace both companies with beads of automatic fire. 
Major Thompson immediately started to organize a withdrawal and employed 
ten battalions of artillery to drop smoke shells in front of his trapped men, Even 
this was inadequate and many of the troops did not return until after dark. 
Company C lost five men killed and as many wounded. Casualties in Company 
B for the day totaled 43, including 14 missing. Of the missing men, 4 were dead, 

21 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 185-89. 
Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 528. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



439 



2 returned the following morning, and the other 8 were trapped behind enemy 
lines. Three of the trapped men were subsequently killed by friendly or enemy 
fire, and the remaining five stayed in enemy territory until the morning of 14 
June, although they tried to escape on each of the eight intervening nights. 

For the next three days the 96th Division blasted the coral escarpment with 
artillery and air strikes and watched it closely for possible gun positions and 
strong points. The heaviest fighting occurred on the extreme eastern flank of 
the 7th Division, where Company B, 184th Infantry, faced unyielding opposi- 
tion on a tapered ridge that pointed northeast from the tip of Hill 95. One of the 
roughest single terrain features on Okinawa, this 800-yard-long ridge was a 
jumbled mass of coral that was as porous as sponge and as brittle and sharp as 
glass. There were several fortified positions on the ridge as well as numerous 
cavities which protected individual enemy riflemen. The entire ridge was also 
under fire and observation from other positions on Hill 95. The advance was 
tedious, and the company made only slight progress. The largest gain from 
6 to 9 June was in the zone of the 17th Infantry, which forced advances up to 
1,800 yards and occupied the green knolls at the base of the escarpment. These 
small hills were not heavily defended but they were exposed to enemy fire from 
the face of the Yaeju-Dake and from the tableland above. 23 

The 32d Infantry, which had rounded up about 10,000 Okinawa civilians 
during six days of patrol activity on Chinen Peninsula, moved south on the 
afternoon of 8 May and effected relief of the 184th. Road conditions were im- 
proved and a large quantity of supplies reached Minatoga on 8 June; two com- 
panies of medium tanks were near the front lines and others were moving for- 
ward. General Arnold planned to strike the first blow against the new Japanese 
line and ordered the attack to commence at 0730 on 9 June. There were two 
immediate objectives. The task of reducing Hill 95 and the rough-hewn coral 
ridge that lay in front fell to the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, commanded by Lt. 
Col. Robert C. Foulston; the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, under Lt. Col Lee 
Wallace, was to secure a lodgment on the southern and low end of the Yaeju- 
Dake at a point just north of the town of Asato. 
First Brea\ in the Japanese Wall 

Dawn patrols proceeded unmolested toward the coral ridge in front of 
Hill 95, but the Japanese reacted quickly before the remainder of Company C 
of the 32d Infantry, which carried the burden of the attack, had moved 100 yards. 

23 Ibid., p. 500; Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 393-419. 



440 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



As long as the men kept their heads down the enemy fire subsided, but any 
attempt to move forward attracted rifle and machine-gun and knee-mortar fire 
which blasted sharp chips from the coral formation. The company commander, 
Capt. Robert Washnok, held up the frontal assault, placed artillery shells on 
Hill 95, used about 2,000 mortar shells on his objective, and then tried working 
a platoon forward on the Gushichan side to eliminate two strongly defended 
knobs near the end of Hill 95. This effort was partially successful; the men 
killed thirteen Japanese and located the source of the most troublesome auto- 
matic fire, but toward evening they had to be recalled. 

The first and greatest obstacle confronting Wallace's attack was the open 
ground over which both assault companies had to move. Wallace used all avail- 
able support and the men camouflaged themselves with grass and rice plants, 
but enemy fire began almost as soon as the leading platoons moved into the 
open. The infantrymen crawled through the slimy rice paddies on their stom- 
achs. Within an hour Company I was strung from the line of departure to the 
base of the objective which two squads had reached. About this time the Japanese 
opened fire with another machine gun, separating the advance squads with a 
band of fire. This left one squad to continue the attack; the remainder of the 
company was unable to move, cut off by fire or strung across the rice paddies. 

Those men in the squad still free to operate lifted and pulled each other to 
the edge of the cliff and crawled quietly forward through the high grass on top. 
Pfc. Ignac A. Zeleski, a BAR man, moved so stealthily that he almost touched 
the heels of one Japanese. Zeleski killed him, and the other men killed eight 
more Japanese within the first ten minutes. Another squad reached the top of 
the escarpment about an hour later but was caught in cross and grazing fire 
from three machine guns, and the entire 8-man squad was killed. Gradually, 
however, a few more men reached the top, and by evening there were twenty men 
from Company I holding a small area at the escarpment rim. 

Company K had a similar experience. Accurate enemy fire killed one man, 
wounded two others, and halted the company when it was from 200 to 300 yards 
from its objective. For forty-five minutes the attack dragged on until S/Sgt. 
Lester L. Johnson and eight men maneuvered forward through enemy fire, 
gained the high ground, and concentrated their fire on the enemy machine gun 
that was firing on the remainder of the company. This did not silence the gun 
but did prevent the gunner from aiming well, and Johnson waved for the rest 
of the company to follow. By 1330 of 9 June Company K was consolidated on 
the southeastern tip of the Yaeju-Dake. That evening, three small but deter- 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



44 1 



mined counterattacks, with sustained grenade fire between each attempt, hit 
the small force from Company I, which held off the attackers with a light 
machine gun and automatic rifles. 

Tanks stirred dust along the narrow roads when, at 0600 on the morning 
of 10 June, they started for the front lines. A full battalion was on hand to 
support the 7th Division; two companies operated with the 96th Division, 
which began its assault on the Yaeju-Dake that morning. The character of 
warfare on Okinawa changed, and until the end of the campaign there was a 
freer, more aggressive use of tanks. Weather and terrain were more favorable, 
and flame tanks became the American solution to the Japanese coral caves; 
interference from enemy shells became less with the destruction of each Japanese 
gun; and, more important, through experience the infantrymen and tankers 
developed a team that neared perfection. Improved visibility also aided obser- 
vation of artillery fire and air strikes. The battle for the southern tip of Okinawa 
blazed with orange rods of flame and became a thunderous roar of machine 
guns, shells, rockets, and bombs. 24 

Pumping Flame Through a Hose 

Company C, 32d Infantry, still bore the responsibility of destroying the 
Japanese in front of Hill 95. When the fighting flared again on the second day 
of the attack, Navy cruisers fired on the seaward side of the ridge ; artillery and 
tanks shelled and machine-gunned the top and sides of Hill 95 ; and the 2d Bat- 
talion attacked toward the village of Hanagusuku. Captain Washnok and his 
men crept cautiously over the coral. The Japanese did not withdraw; Company 
C killed them as it advanced. By early afternoon the men had eliminated all 
enemy fire except that from a few scattered rifles and several fortified caves in 
two rocky knobs near the northeast end of Hill 95. Colonel Finn advocated the 
use of flame. Washnok held his company in place, and Capt. Tony Niemeyer, 
6-foot 4-inch commander of Company C, 713th Armored Flame Thrower Bat- 
talion, moved one tank to the base of the two knobs. Then he attached a 200-foot 
hose, a special piece of equipment for delivering fuel to an area inaccessible to 
the tank. S/Sgt. Joseph Frydrych, infantry platoon leader, Captain Niemeyer, 
and Sgt. Paul E. Schrum dragged the hose onto the high rock and sprayed 
napalm over the two strong points, forcing out thirty-five or forty enemy soldiers 
whom the infantryman killed by rifle or BAR fire. Except for stray rifle fire, 
all enemy opposition in the coral ridge was gone when the 1st Battalion set up 



763d Tk Bn S-3 Periodic Rpt, 10 Jun 45; 711th Tk Bn Actn Rpt, p. 18. 



442 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



defenses for the night. The Japanese came back, however, during the night; 
they harassed Company C with mortars and grenades and prowled in the open 
in front of the other advanced companies. Two days of fighting through the 
rough terrain had cost Company C forty-three casualties, ten of whom were 
killed. 

Niemeyer was active again on the morning of 1 1 June, when the 326. Infantry 
proceeded against the high end of Hill 95. Company B had taken the lead and 
pushed against the northeast end of the hill; although tank and artillery fire on 
Hill 95 was so heavy that the hill was partially obscured with haze, several 
machine guns fired from caves which could not be reached, and the men were 
temporarily stopped. When this approach failed, Niemeyer, Colonel Finn, and 
Capt. Dallas D. Thomas, Company B commander, decided to use the flame- 
thrower tanks to burn a path to the top of the 170-foot coral cliff. Captain Nie- 
meyer, a daring soldier who was enthusiastic over the^capabilities of his flame- 
thrower tanks, moved them to the Hanagusuku side of Hill 95 and forced streams 
of red flame against the portion of the cliff where the infantrymen expected to 
make the ascent. This flame eliminated any threat of close-quarters resistance 
from caves in the face of the escarpment. The next step was to reach the flat top 
of the hill and secure a toe hold on the high ground. At 1100 Niemeyer and a 
platoon under 1st Lt. Frank A. Davis fastened one end of a hose to a flame tank 
and began dragging the other end up the almost vertical side of the hill. The 
tanks, artillery, mortars, and machine guns stepped up their rate of fire to keep 
down enemy interference, the men being as exposed as spiders on a bare wall. 
This spectacular attack was also slow, and it was forty-five minutes before the 
men reached a small shelf just below the lip of the escarpment. They stopped 
here long enough to squirt napalm onto the flat rocks above them in case any 
Japanese were waiting for them there, then scrambled over the edge and poured 
flame onto the near-by area. Davis and his men fanned out behind the flame. 
The remainder of Company B followed immediately; the company quickly 
expanded its holding across the northeast end of the hill and then pushed south, 
still using flame against suspected enemy strong points. When the fuel from one 
tank was exhausted the hose was fitted to another tank. 

Colonel Foulston reinforced his attacking company with two platoons from 
Company A. When evening came the 1st Battalion had destroyed the enemy 
force on the northeast end of the tableland. The men were involved in close-in 
fighting with Japanese hiding in rocks and crevices but their grip on the 
tableland was firm. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



443 



When it was time for front-line troops to dig in on the evening of n June, 
one battalion from each of the 7th Division's attacking regiments held a small 
corner of the enemy's main line on southern Okinawa. During the three days 
since the assault against Hill 95 and the Yaeju-Dake began on 9 June, the right 
(western) end of the XXIV Corps line had remained relatively unchanged. 
The 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, softened its end of the Yaeju-Dake with lavish 
use of artillery, to destroy enemy strong points on the plateau above the escarp- 
ment, and employed tanks and cannon company weapons directly against caves 
in the face of the cliff. 20 
The g6th Attacks in the Center 

Meanwhile, the 381st and 383d Infantry Regiments hammered away at the 
high peaks of Yaeju-Dake and Yuza-Dake. On 10 June the 383d attacked toward 
the town of Yuza, which it reached the following day. There was heavy fighting 
from one wall to the next in the battered town and, in addition, constant fire 
from Yuza-Dake, which towered over the southern edge of the town. The troops 
withdrew that evening when enemy fire increased. 26 

With its approach blocked by the highest and steepest section of the Yaeju- 
Dake wall, the 381st Infantry struck toward the saddle between the Big Apple 
Peak and the Yuza-Dake, where the escarpment rose in two levels. Major 
Thompson's rst Battalion had unsuccessfully explored this route on 6 June when 
Companies B and C reached the intermediate level, immediately drew prereg- 
istered fire, and were forced to abandon their gains under smoke. After shelling 
the Japanese emplacements for four days these two companies attacked over 
the same route, this time with tank support. Difficult terrain and mines pre- 
vented effective use of the tanks, but Companies B and C pushed ahead without 
them and, by 0900 of 10 June, three of the attacking platoons were back on the 
ledge where the previous attack had stalled. Japanese machine guns opened fire 
as promptly and accurately as before, and the advance again ended suddenly 
with half of the men on the first ledge of the escarpment and the rest scattered 
in the rice paddies to the rear. 

Throughout the day the company commanders tried to maneuver the trail- 
ing elements of their units forward. Each effort failed until, late in the afternoon, 
another smoke screen was laid down, this time to cover the advance of the rear 
elements and the preparation of defensive positions for the night. When the 
smoke had cleared, both companies were in place. A few minutes later about a 

25 Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 405-11, 420. 

26 Mulford and Roeers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 191-99. 



Flame-throwing tariffs advance to Hill 95. 



Flame hose is stretched up the hill. 




Flame from hose hits hill. 



Burned, bewildered survivor is captured. 




Enemy position burned out by Capt. Tony Niemeyer's team. 
FLAME THROUGH A HOSE 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



445 



hundred Japanese troops, believing the smoke had covered a withdrawal as on 
6 June, emerged from their holes and gathered near a building at the southern 
end of the flat area, where they began to change to civilian clothes for their 
customary night infiltrations. Capt. Philip D. Newell, commanding Company 
Q, adjusted artillery fire in their midst and most of them were killed. 

An ammunition-carrying party took supplies to the forward companies 
that night, enabling the men to defend their gain successfully against a counter- 
attack that came early the next morning. Just before dawn on n June the 
remainder of the battalion joined the two advance companies. The 381st Infantry 
made no attempt to extend its holdings on 11 June but conducted heavy tank 
and artillery fire against the cave openings on the Big Apple Peak. The next 
important thrust against the Japanese line was to occur in the sector of the 
17th Infantry where Col. Francis Pachler was planning a night attack against 
his portion of the Yaeju-Dake. 

Night Move Onto the Yaeju-Da\e 

Colonel Pachler had good reasons for favoring a night move. The advantages 
of observation belonged almost completely to the defending force, and this had 
seriously interfered when the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, seized the southeast 
end of the escarpment. The coral wall of the escarpment in front of the 1st 
Battalion was higher at this end; at the same time the two suitable routes 
leading to the high ground were narrow and could be easily controlled by 
Japanese fire. The troops had held positions at the base of the 170-foot cliff for 
several days and were familiar with the terrain. They had, in fact, been looking 
at the escarpment so long that, as their commander, Maj. Maynard Weaver, 
said, they were anxious to get on top so that they could look at something else. 27 

Although the night attack was planned principally for the 1st Battalion, 
Colonel Pachler also decided on a coordinated move to enlarge the area held 
by the 3d Battalion. The final plan included three assault companies : Company 
A was to occupy a cluster of coral about a hundred yards beyond the edge of 
the escarpment and next to the boundary between the 7th and 96th Divisions; 
Company B had a similar objective about 200 yards to the southeast; and 
Company L was directed against the small hill between the 1st Battalion's 
objectives and the positions occupied by the 3d Battalion on 11 June. Each 
company was to take a separate route. Company A's path led directly up the 
face of the cliff to its objective. Company B had to travel south to a break in 



"Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 421-29. 



446 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



the escarpment face and then, once on the high ground, turn right toward its 
objective. The objective of Company L was near the edge of the escarpment and 
easily approached. 

Movement was to begin at 0400 on 12 June. Since the attack was based on 
stealth, no artillery preparation was used. However, 2 battalions of 105-mm. 
artillery, 1 battery of 155-mm. howitzers, and an 8-inch howitzer battalion were 
scheduled to deliver heavy harassing fires during the early part of the night. Also 
a total of 21 batteries registered their fires on the afternoon of 11 June and were 
prepared to surround the objectives with protective artillery fire if trouble 
developed after they were reached. One section of heavy machine guns was 
attached to each assault company. 

Colonel Pachler had planned the attack carefully and insisted that every 
man participating know all details of the movement. Reconnaissance patrols 
had examined the trails leading to the high ground, and demolition teams had 
satchel-charged known cave positions in the face of the cliff. Nevertheless, every- 
one concerned with the attack dreaded the possibility of confusion that might 
result from the unknown conditions during darkness. This apprehension in- 
creased at 2000 on the night of 11 June when the 7th Division G-2 Section re- 
ported interception of an enemy radio message that evening which said, "Prepare 
to support the attack at 2300." A little later another intercepted message read: "If 
there are any volunteers for the suicide penetration, report them before the con- 
tact which is to be made one hour from now." 28 At the same time, from dusk 
until nearly 2300, the Japanese fired an extremely heavy concentration of artillery 
which front-line troops fully expected to be followed by a counterattack. The 
counterattack came but was aimed against the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, which 
had reached the top of Hill 95 that afternoon, and against the 96th Division. 
There was no enemy activity in the 17th Infantry's sector. 

Night illumination and harassing shell fire ceased shortly before 0400, and 
thereafter the execution of the attack followed the plan almost without varia- 
tion. The attacking companies moved out in single file. As promptly as if it 
had been scheduled, a heavy fog settled over southern Okinawa. It was of the 
right density — allowing visibility up to ten feet — to provide concealment but 
still allow the men to follow their paths without confusion. On the high ground 
Company A found a few civilians wandering about, and the leading platoon 
of Company B met three Japanese soldiers just after it reached the shelf of the 



7th Div G— 2 Jnl, Msg Nos. 31, 32, 39, 11 Jun 45. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



447 



escarpment. The men ignored them and walked quietly on. Nor did the enemy 
open fire. By 0530, a few minutes after dawn, Companies A and B were in place 



and no one had fired a shot. (See Map No. XLVIII.) 



Without incident Company L reached its objective and then, anxious to 
take advantage of the fog and the absence of enemy fire, its commander sent 
his support platoon to another small hill fifty yards beyond. This objective was 
secured within a few minutes, after two enemy soldiers were killed. The platoon 
leader called his company commander to report progress and then frantically 
called for mortar fire. Walking toward his position in a column of twos were 
about fifty Japanese. The Americans opened fire with rifles and BAR's, broke 
up the column formation, and counted thirty-seven enemy soldiers killed; the 
others escaped. 

Men in the 1st Battalion were pleased no less with the success of the night 
attack. A few minutes after Company A was in place, four enemy soldiers came 
trudging up toward them. They were killed with as many shots. Four others 
followed these at a short interval and were killed in the same way. Company B 
was not molested until about 0530, when some Japanese tried to come out of 
several caves in the center of the company's position. Since the cave openings 
were reinforced with concrete they could not be closed with demolition charges, 
but the men guarded the entrances and shot the Japanese as they emerged. Soon 
after daylight Company C began mopping up caves in the face of the escarp- 
ment, and later it joined the rest of the battalion on the high ground. By 0800 
the situation was settled and the 17th Infantry held strong positions on the 
Yaeju-Dake. The Japanese had withdrawn their front-line troops from Yaeju- 
Dake during the night in order to escape harassing artillery, but they had 
expected to reoccupy it before "the expected 0700 attack." Fifteen hours after 
the 32d Infantry burned its way to the top of Hill 95, the 17th Infantry had 
seized its portion of the Yaeju-Dake in a masterfully executed night attack. 

The 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, relieved Companies I and K during the day, 
and, with Company L attached and supported by medium and flame tanks, con- 
tinued the attack. The 1st Battalion held its ground and fired at enemy soldiers 
who, slow to realize that their defensive terrain had been stolen during the night, 
tried to creep back to their posts. Company B alone killed sixty-three during the 
day. 

Progress in the Center 

At 0600 on the same day, 12 June, Colonel Holloran's 381st Infantry de- 
livered the next blow against the Japanese main line of resistance. Since 10 June, 




NIGHT ATTACK ON YAEJU-DAKE by the 17th Infantry, yth Division, on 12 June 
resulted in capture of the section shown 111 picture above. Company A went up the path 
shown near center and occupied the coral ridges appearing in center. Company B moved up 
the slope at left and swung bac\ to right on top of the escarpment. Below are infantrymen 
on Yaeju-Da\e the morning of 13 June. Litter team evacuating wounded can be seen 
on the road. 




THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



449 



when the 381st launched its attack against the escarpment, the 1st Battalion had 
gained a toe hold on the intermediate level in the saddle between the Yaeju-Dake 
and the Yuza-Dake Peaks. The 3d Battalion had cleaned the enemy troops out of 
Tomui but was unable to proceed against the blunt and steep segment of the 
escarpment that lay in its zone. For 12 June Colonel Halloran committed his 
reserve battalion, the 2d, on the west end of his flank to fight abreast of the center 
salient and, at the same time, close a gap between his regiment and die 383d. 
Then, depending upon the success of the 17th Infantry's night attack, the 3d 
Battalion was to press its attack against the adjoining portion of the escarpment. 29 

Despite extensive use of artillery and tanks on previous days to batter cave 
openings in the face of the cliff, enemy fire flared as briskly as ever when the 3d 
Battalion, under Lt. Col. D. A. Nolan, Jr., reached the base of the escarpment 
on the morning of 12 June. Realizing that a frontal assault against this defended 
wall would be both slow and costly, Colonel Nolan left Company K to contain 
the enemy and to mop up near the bottom of the cliff; he ordered Capt. Roy A. 
Davis to take Company L around to the southeast, climb the escarpment in the 
7th Division's zone, and then move back along the edge of the cliff to a position 
above Company K. 30 

It was nearly midafternoon before Davis and his men were in place on the 
high ground. Company K, meanwhile, worked along the base of the cliff under 
a steady volume of rifle fire but with protection of smoke. An effort to join the 
two elements of the battalion for the night failed, but the 381st Infantry had 
broken a 3-day stalemate at the steepest part of the escarpment and was now 
ready to pry the next section from Japanese control. 

Japanese troops still controlled the Big Apple Peak, which rose about sixty 
feet above the general level of the plateau, but by evening of 12 June the 7th and 
96th Divisions had forced the reconstituted 44th Independent Mixed Brigade 
from the southeastern end of the enemy's line. 

General Ushijima acted as quickly as his shattered communication system 
and the confusion of his front-line units would permit. With his artillery pieces 
shelled and bombed into near-silence, and his supplies and equipment dimin- 
ishing even faster than his manpower, his only hope was to send more troops 
into the shell fire and flame with which the American forces were sweeping the 
front-line area. His order read: 

29 381st Inf Unit Jnl, Msg No. 45, 11 Jun 45. 

30 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 204-06. 



450 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



The enemy in the 44th 1MB sector has finally penetrated our main line of resist- 
ance. . . . The plan of the 44th 1MB is to annihilate, with its main strength, the enemy 
penetrating the Yaeju-Dake sector. 

The Army will undertake to reoccupy and hold its Main Line of Resistance to the 
death. The 626 Division will place two picked infantry battalions under the command of 
the CG, 44th 1MB. 31 

The 64th Brigade — the part of the 6id Division which had moved from 
Shuri to reserve positions near Makabe — did not issue this order until late on 
13 June, fully thirty hours after its need arose. Moreover, piecemeal commit- 
ment of reserve troops was inadequate. By 13 June the 44th Brigade was so close 
to destruction that when the reinforcements arrived the remnants of the 44th 
were absorbed by the reinforcing battalions and there were still not enough 
men to hold the line. The enemy then committed the main strength of the 62^ 
Division, his last reserve and hope, with a plea for cooperation and orders to 
"reoccupy and secure the Main Line of Resistance." 

By the time the 62^ Division could move onto the line, however, it ran 
squarely into General Hodge's men attacking south across the coral-studded 
plateau. The Americans were moving behind the fire of machine guns and 
tanks and over the bodies of the Japanese who bad defended their last strong 
line "to the death." 
The Battle of Kunishi Ridge 

Only the eastern end of the Japanese line collapsed. On the western side of 
the island troops of the 24th Division fought to a standstill one regiment of the 
96th Division and the 1st Marine Division from 12 until 17 June. This slugging 
battle of tanks and infantrymen, with heavy blows furnished by planes and by 
naval and ground artillery, was for the possession of Yuza Peak and Kunishi 
Ridge. Yuza Peak, approximately 300 feet higher than the surrounding ground, 
dominated this part of the fortified line and was the source of most of the enemy 
fire. Its capture was the responsibility of the 383d Infantry, 96th Division. The 
western side of Yuza Peak tapered off toward the sea and formed Kunishi Ridge, 
a 2,000-yard-long coral barrier lying athwart the 1st Marine Division sector. 
Movement toward the Peak was restricted by extensive mine fields. 

On three successive days the 383d Infantry drove the enemy troops from 
the town of Yuza, but each time machine-gun fire plunging from the coral peak 
beyond forced the men to withdraw to defensive positions at night. The Japanese 
reoccupied the town each night. Real progress was first made on 15 June when 

31 Cited in Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 564-65. 



THE ENEMY'S LAST STAND 



451 



the 2d Battalion, 382c! Infantry, having relieved the center battalion of the 383d, 
gained the northern slope of the peak. The remainder of the 383d, weary from 
thirty-five days of continuous combat, passed into reserve on the following day, 
and Colonel Dill's 382d Infantry proceeded against the hard core of the Yuza 
line. 32 

Kunishi Ridge was the scene of the most frantic, bewildering, and costly 
close-in battle on the southern tip of Okinawa. After reaching the west coast 
of the island above Itoman and isolating Oroku Peninsula from the rest of the 
southern battlefield, the 1st Marine Division edged forward against slight 
resistance until the front lines were 1,500 yards north of Kunishi Ridge and 
subject to fire and observation from the heights of Yuza Peak. Two regiments, 
the 1st and 7th, were abreast. The 1st Marines, on the left, were the first to go 
beyond the guarded approaches of the Japanese line and the first to pay heavily 
with casualties. On 10 June the 1st Battalion lost 125 men wounded or killed 
during an attack against a small hill west of Yuza town. Seventy-five of these 
were from Company C. On the same day the 7th Marines reached the high 
ground at the northern edge of Tera, a long ridge contested almost as vigorously. 
The left flank swung ahead again on 11 June to Hill 69, west of Ozato, against 
steady and heavy opposition. 33 

A 1,000-yard strip of low and generally level ground separated the 1st 
Marine Division's line between Tera and Ozato from Kunishi Ridge, the next 
step in the advance. The 7th Marines ventured onto this open ground on 11 
June and was promptly driven back by Japanese machine guns which covered 
the entire valley. As a result of this experience, General del Valle and the com- 
mander of the 7th Marines, Col. Edward W. Snedeker, decided to make the next 
move under cover of darkness. Each of the assault battalions was to lead off 
with one company at 0300 on 12 June, seize the west end of Kunishi Ridge and 
hold until daylight, and then support the advance of the remainder of the 
battalions. 

Companies C and F walked onto the ridge with surprising ease, but the 
illusion of easy victory ended at dawn. Company C opened fire first, killing 
several enemy soldiers just as the two companies reached their objectives. 
This disturbance was the signal for immediate enemy action. Mortar shells began 
falling within a minute or two, and, as daylight increased, the Japanese sighted 

"Ibid., pp. 552-57- 

33 Stockman, ist Mar Div History, pp. 123-44. 



45 2 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



their guns along the length of the coral ridge and began shelling and machine- 
gunning the valley of approach to prevent reinforcement. Colonel Snedeker 
challenged the enemy guns with two tanks, but one of these was knocked out 
and the other driven back by the fury of the shell fire. Both forward companies 
were suffering casualties and asked for help, but the other companies of the two 
battalions could no more move across the valley with impunity than the assault 
companies could expose themselves on Kunishi Ridge. 

An attempt to cross under smoke failed when the Japanese crisscrossed 
bands of machine-gun fire through the haze and forced the two companies and 
their tank support to withdraw. In the afternoon, with Companies C and F 
still asking for help, several tanks succeeded in reaching Kunishi Ridge with 
a supply of plasma, water, and ammunition and brought back the seriously 
wounded. After this successful venture the battalion commanders evolved a 
plan for ferrying infantrymen, six in each tank, across the 1,000-yard strip of 
exposed ground. Before nightfall fifty-four men had dropped through the tank 
escape hatches onto Kunishi Ridge, and twenty-two casualties were evacuated 
on the return trips. This method of transporting both supplies and men was 
used throughout the fighting for Kunishi Ridge. 34 

The difficulties of 12 June were only the beginning of trouble. With the 
return of daylight on 13 June six companies occupied the lower end of Kunishi 
Ridge, and none of them could move. All were dependent upon tanks for 
supplies and evacuation. Twenty-nine planes dropped supplies, but with only 
partial success since a portion of the drops fell beyond reach and was unre- 
coverable. One hundred and forty men from the two battalions were casualties 
on 13 June; the seriously wounded were returned in tanks, men with light 
wounds stayed on the ridge, and the bodies of the dead were gathered near the 
base of the ridge. 

The burden of offensive action fell upon the tanks on 13 June and the three 
days following. Flame and medium tanks moving out on firing missions carried 
supplies and reinforcements forward and then, on the return trip for more 
fuel or ammunition, carried wounded men to the rear. Soft rice paddies made 
it necessary for the tanks to stay on the one good road in the sector, and this 
road was effectively covered by Japanese 47-mm. shells and other artillery, 
which destroyed or damaged a total of twenty-one tanks during the 5-day battle. 

84 1st Mar Div Special Actn Rpt, Assault Narrative, Phase III, p. 14; Tank Support Annex, pp. 37-38, 
49, 50; III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 13 Jun 45, par. 3. 




YUZA PEAK, under attac\ by the ^82d Infantry, 96th Division. Tan\s are working on 
the caves and tunnel system at base of ridge. 



YAEJU DAKE MINATOGA 




KUNISHI RIDGE, with Yuza-Da^e and Y aeju-Daf^e Escarpments in background. From 
the ridge the enemy fired on troops attacking Yuza pea\. (Photo ta\en 10 October 1944-) 



454 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



Most enemy fire on Kunishi Ridge came from the front and the left flank. 
To relieve this pressure from the left, the ist Marines ordered the 2d Battalion 
to seize the eastern and higher end to the left of the 7th Marines. This attack 
was similar to the first both in plan and in result. At 0300 on 14 June Companies 
E and G moved out. Two hours later the assault platoons were in place, but 
at dawn a sudden heavy volume of enemy fire interrupted further advance. 
The leading men were cut off, the rear elements could not move, and all the 
men were receiving rifle, mortar, and machine-gun fire from the front and left 
flank and rifle fire from bypassed Japanese in the rear. No one could stand up 
on the ridge, and even the wounded had to be dragged on ponchos to the escape 
hatch underneath the tanks upon which, as did also the 7th Marines, these two 
companies depended for supply and evacuation. It was not until dark that the 
battalion was able to consolidate its position. 

The two regiments held grimly to Kunishi Ridge although making no 
appreciable gains until 17 June, after the tanks, planes, and artillery had destroyed 
the enemy's ability and will to resist. The 7th Marines attempted to expand 
their hold on 15 June but, although fifteen battalions of artillery supported 
the effort, it resulted in an additional thirty-five casualties in the attaching com- 
panies. Two days on Kunishi Ridge had cost the 2d Battalion of the rst 
Marines nearly 150 casualties and, after dark, it was relieved by the 2d Battalion, 
5th Marines. 

Signs of weakening enemy strength appeared first on 16 June and the 7th 
Marines made some headway on each of its flanks. The zone of the 2d Battalion 
was taken over by the 22d Marines before dawn of the 17th. Most of the enemy 
resistance disappeared when these comparatively fresh troops took up the attack 
and gained ground on 17 June. During the five days of savage fighting, tanks 
had carried 550 reinforcing troops and approximately 90 tons of supplies to 
Kunishi Ridge and had evacuated 1,150 troops to the rear, most of whom were 
casualties. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

The Battle Ends 



"We have passed the speculative phase of the campaign and are down to 
the final kill." This was General Buckner's appraisal of the battle for Okinawa on 
15 June. 1 Infantrymen on the front lines also sensed the impending disinte- 
gration of General Ushijima's -p.d Army, not because of any noticeable weaken- 
ing in the individual's will to fight but because, destitute of the supplies and tools 
of war, of the coordination, communications, and skill necessary to a fighting 
machine, the Japanese collectively lacked the power of adequate resistance. 

End of Organized Resistance 

Most of General Ushijima's crack troops were rotting in the rubble of the 
Shuri battlefield. Of the combat and service troops who had escaped to the south, 
a thousand were being killed each day. 2 Those who lived had become a mass of 
uncoordinated troops fighting to the death but presenting no integrated defense 
against the Tenth Army attack ranging south toward the last prominent hills 
left to the Japanese. 
Fight Before the Caves 

After gaining the top of Hill 95 and the rim of the Yaeju-Dake, only a gen- 
erally level plateau separated the XXIV Corps front lines from the cave head- 
quarters of General Ushijima's army which, according to prisoners of war, was 
located in a great coral ledge at the southern extremity of the Corps sector. This 
entire tableland, although evenly contoured, was liberally covered with coral 
heads. Some were grouped densely and formed a partial barrier; others were 
little larger than stumps or bushes and appeared to have grown from the earth. 
A few coral bulges were large and prominent enough to afford the Japanese 
strong positions. The largest of these were the Big Apple and Yuza-Dake Peaks 

1 This statement was made by General Buckner at a staff meeting at Tenth Army headquarters. See 
Colonel Stevens' Diary for 15 Jun 45. 

2 Enemy casualty figures listed in Par. 3, G— 2 Periodic Rpt No. 68, 2 Jun 45, and No. 81, 15 Jun 45. 
Because of the exaggerated figures on enemy casualties, only the killed who were actually counted are 
considered in this estimate. 



456 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



at the north end of the 96th Division's sector. Within the zone of the 7th Division 
were Hills 153 and 115, jagged protuberances of coral which, after the fall of the 
Yaeju-Dake and Hill 95, became General Ushijima's last hope of defending the 
eastern end of his line. 

The 5-day battle for these hills and the fields of coral outcroppings on the 
surrounding plateau, lasting from 13 to 17 June, was as much like hunting as 
fighting. It was a battle of massed tanks which operated ahead of the usual 
infantry support, blasting the coral rocks with shell bursts and almost constant 
machine-gun fire. The battlefield was perfect for armored flame throwers, which 
poured flame into the caves and clusters of rocky crags and wooded areas, either 
killing the Japanese at once or forcing them into lanes of machine-gun fire. In 
five days flame tanks of the 713th Armored Flame Thrower Battalion directed 
more than 37,000 gallons of burning gasoline at the enemy. 3 It was also a battle 
of infantry platoons or individual infantrymen against disorganized but desperate 
enemy soldiers. 

Some of the largest cave defenses in southern Okinawa were in the Yaeju 
and Yuza Peaks. Infantrymen of the 96th Division destroyed these positions with 
hand and rifle grenades, satchel charges, and portable flame throwers. For the 
infantrymen it was a search for the enemy's hiding places, often followed by a 
few minutes of reckless combat. Troops of the 381st Infantry occupied the com- 
manding ground on the Big Apple Peak on 14 June but, for lack of enough 
explosives to seal the numerous caves in the area, were forced into a night-long 
fight with Japanese who emerged from the caves after darkness. 4 Yuza Peak fell 
two days later, on 16 June. On the same day the 17th and 32d Regiments reached 
Hill 153 and Hill 115, but another day of bitter fighting was required before the 
Japanese forces were completely destroyed. 
Collapse of the ^id Army 

By the evening of 17 June, Tenth Army troops held a solid front line along 
the crests of Kunishi Ridge, Hill 153, and Hill 115, and, for the first time, could 
look south over the entire enemy-held territory, covering about eight square 
miles. Forced from its last defensive terrain and obliged to realize that nothing 
could prevent its destruction, General Ushijima's army suddenly collapsed. Its 
discipline and morale, weakened by nearly eighty days of defeat, now broke 
completely and the Army degenerated into a mob. 



3 Actn Rpt, 713th Tank Bn, Armored Flame Thrower, Prov, pp. 23-29. 

4 The action on the Big Apple is described in Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, pp. 213—24. 




FIGHTING TOWARD HILL 89, tan\s of the 769th Tan\ Battalion attac\ a bypassed 
Japanese strong point. On top of Y aeju-Da\e 18 ]une, 96th Division infantrymen (below) 
probe hidden enemy poc\ets. Yellow cloth (right) mar\s the front lines for American 
bombers and fighters. 




45 8 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



As a unit, the 44th Brigade was destroyed when its command post on Hill 
115 fell to the 32d Infantry; only a few stragglers escaped. Enemy soldiers who 
had served in the 62 d Division fell back to defend the army headquarters at Hill 
89. Approximately 400 members of the 24th Division — all that remained of the 
Japanese 32^ Regiment — were scattered through the caves near Kunishi Ridge, 
where they remained in hiding as the battle passed on to the south. The rest of 
the 2.4th Division retreated to its headquarters near Medeera, less than half a 
mile southwest of Hill 153. 

"Hill 153," said General Ushijima in an order written a few hours after 
that hill fell to the 17th Infantry, "is the essential point at which the final destiny 
of the entire army must be decided. It is very painful to the Commanding Gen- 
eral of the Army that the orders sent out from time to time . . . concerning that 
hill have been disregarded." He ordered one battalion to recapture the hill 
before morning. A copy of this order was found the following morning on the 
body of one of the from 100 to 200 soldiers who tried to recapture Hill 153. On the 
back were notes written by the commander of the battalion: 

The contents of the first paragraph of this Army Order were utterly unexpected by 
this battalion; it is, indeed extremely unfortunate. 

The units which are to retake Hill 153 will carry out the Battalion orders without 
thought of losses, thereby bringing fame to the battalion. 

When the hill is retaken, report its seizure immediately. 6 

An hour after daylight, 18 June, the Japanese soldiers who were to report 
the capture of Hill 153 lay dead and scattered through the coral pinnacles. Their 
attack had not even alarmed infantrymen of the 184th Infantry, which had 
replaced the 17th on the previous evening. The Japanese massed on the south 
side of the hill and milled about until they were killed. 

On 18 June, in the last written official order of the jid Army, General 
Ushijima appointed an officer to lead the "Blood and Iron Youth Organization" 
and conduct guerilla warfare after the cessation of organized combat. At the 
same time he ordered remaining troops to make their way to the mountains 
in the northern end of Okinawa where a small band of guerillas was supposedly 

5 This information was obtained from Capt Howard Moss, Language Officer with the 7th Division. 
After the end of the fighting. Captain Moss and members of his team induced several hundred Japanese 
soldiers to surrender and from them he obtained information as to the disposition of enemy forces. On 
29 August 1945, Col Kikuji Hongo, commander of the Japanese j2d Regiment , surrendered between 400 and 
450 men to Captain Moss. Hongo explained that these men, disorganized by the battle for Kunishi 
Ridge, had hidden in the caves on Kunishi until induced to surrender. 

6 Tama Opnl Ord A-91, G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 79, Hq 7th Inf Div, 18 Jun 45, Incl No. 4, p. 18. 



THE BATTLE ENDS 



459 



already operating. The migration was to extend over several days; soldiers 
were to travel in groups of from two to five and were urged to wear civilian 
clothes and avoid conflict if possible. 

This infiltration of Japanese was detected during the night of 18-19 June 
and both the front lines and rear installations burst into activity. Illumination 
flares hung over the southern tip of Okinawa between darkness and dawn, and 
the sound of machine-gun fire was almost constant through the night. This 
nighttime movement reached a peak several nights later, when one division, the 
7th, killed 502 enemy soldiers. The infiltrating Japanese were not aggressive 
and carried weapons only for their own protection, their chief concern being 
to escape to the north or, in some instances, to submerge their identity in the 
civilian population. 7 

While some Japanese chose to chance the hazards of moving north, a 
great many fought savagely and were determined to take as many Americans 
as possible to death with them. The two divisions on the flanks found spotty 
and unpredictable resistance. On 18 and 19 June, the 6th Marine Division 
leapfrogged attacking battalions forward and plunged across the southwestern 
tip of the island. This fast-moving assault, and the advance of the 7th Division 
on the east, were opposed by machine guns and mortars but there was no 
integrated scheme of defense; the mass of civilians encountered delayed the 
troops almost as much as did enemy resistance. In the center, however, the 1st 
Marine and the 96th Infantry Divisions and the 305th Infantry, 77th Division, 
were opposed by the cornered remnants of the 24th Division, which made its 
last desperate stand near its command post at Medeera. The 5th Marines attacked 
Hill 81 in this area on four successive days before it fell on 21 June, and Hill 85 
in the XXIV Corps sector was defended with the same die-hard determination. 8 
(See Map No. XLIX.) 

In spite of the active role which tanks played in the fighting, a role which 
served to accelerate the battle, infantry combat went on as usual. One of the 
more conspicuous displays of recklessness occurred on 19 June when Company 
E, 305th Infantry, attacked several machine-gun nests. T/Sgt. John Meagher 
mounted a tank and was pointing out targets to the tank gunners when a 
Japanese raced toward the tank with a satchel charge. Meagher jumped from 
the tank, bayoneted the enemy soldier, and returned to the tank for a machine 

' Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 587-90; Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 500-01. 
8 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 596-97; III Amph Corps G— 3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 79-82, 18-21 
Jun 45. 




LT. GEN. SIMON B. BUCKNER, Commanding General, Tenth Army (foreground), 
holding camera, photographed while observing action on the Marine front during the latter 
jpart of the campaign. With him, holding walking stic\, is Maj. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, 
Jr., Commanding General, 6th Marine Division. 



THE BATTLE ENDS 



461 



gun. Firing from his hip, he then moved through enemy fire toward the nearest 
pillbox, killed six enemy gunners there, and proceeded toward another machine 
gun. His ammunition gave out just as he reached the second pillbox. Meagher 
grabbed his empty gun by the barrel and beat the enemy crew to death. For 
this daring, one-man assault, Meagher was awarded the Congressional Medal 
of Honor. 

Except for the Medeera pocket, front lines had almost disappeared by the 
evening of 21 June. Enemy troops, numbering between 15,000 and 18,000, were 
hiding in crevices in the great cliffs that walled the southern coast, in caves and 
ruined buildings, or in the brush, ditches, or coral. Some were waiting for an 
opportunity to surrender or were simply trying to evade American troops and 
prolong their own existence. Others, surrounded near Medeera, were fighting 
desperately with mortars and machine guns. Many of the Okinawa conscripts 
hoped to rejoin their families. 

Although the ratio of Japanese killed to American casualties increased 
favorably, the latter remained relatively high as infantrymen combed the tip 
of the island for snipers or fought through the streets of Medeera and Makabe. 
Disorganization of the enemy force did not lessen the need for aggressive action, 
although the same effort by the troops usually resulted in a greater number of 
enemy casualties than in the Shuri area. From the fall of Shuri until front lines 
disappeared, Tenth Army lost 1,555 men killed in action and 6,602 wounded. 9 

Among those killed was General Buckner. Early in the afternoon of 18 June, 
General Buckner stopped at a forward observation post of the 8th Marine Regi- 
ment, 2d Marine Division, near the southwest tip of Okinawa. Although this 
division staged a feint on 1 April and 19 April, none of its elements came ashore 
till June, when the 8th, after taking Theia and Iguni Islands, joined in the 
final battle. 10 While General Buckner watched the progress of the fighting, at 
1315, a shell from a Japanese dual purpose gun exploded directly above the 
observation post. A fragment of coral, broken off by the explosion, struck General 
Buckner in the chest. He collapsed immediately and died ten minutes later. Maj. 
Gen. Roy S. Geiger, senior commander on Okinawa, assumed command of 
Tenth Army. 11 He was succeeded on 23 June by Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell. 

Brig. Gen. Claudius M. Easley, assistant commander of the 96th Division, 
was killed the day after General Buckner's death. General Easley, known by all as 

9 See casualty reports in Tenth Army G— 3 Jnl for period 22 May— 21 Jun 45. 

10 III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 76, 16 Jun 45. 

11 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 584-85. 



462 



OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE 



a front-line soldier, was pointing out the location of a machine gun when two 
bullets from the gun struck him in the forehead. The lives of these two generals 
were added to more than 7,000 others of the Tenth Army as part of the cost of 
victory on Okinawa. 12 

Surrender and Suicide 

Deterioration of Enemy Discipline and Morale 

Until American troops occupied the last of its defensive terrain, the Japanese 
Army, in spite of adversities and broken fortunes, had maintained discipline and 
organization astonishingly well. When the process of dissolution began, however, 
it spread like an epidemic. Most Japanese soldiers lost hope of eventual victory 
when they abandoned Shuri. As early as 12 June the sound of their artillery had 
faded from its April rumble to a faint whisper, and small weapons were scarcer 
than men. "If hand grenades, explosives, etc., are dropped on the battlefield," a 
Japanese general ordered, "every single item will be picked up; the man doing the 
salvaging will arm himself with them." 13 

There was dissension among troops and officers. One prisoner said it was 
common for men to join other units without knowing the names of the unit and 
of its officers. Others reported that medical supplies were so low that treatment 
was limited to bandaging, and many of the wounded were left to die or to 
commit suicide. About half the troops were fighting in a daze, and rape was 
common since the soldiers felt that they had only a short time to live. 14 These 
conditions existed even before Kunishi Ridge and Hill 153 were in American 
hands. After they fell the Japanese soldiers realized that no action in which they 
participated could have even momentary success. 

Faced with these wretched conditions, Japanese officers had maintained 
discipline by assuring their soldiers that there was no alternative to death since 
the Americans would kill them if captured. On the other hand, Japanese officers 
promised their troops a counterlanding, an airborne invasion, and a general 
all-out attack toward the latter part of June. According to prisoners of war who 
told of this persistent rumor, the gth Division was to come from Formosa, and 
500 planes and the remains of the Imperial Fleet were to participate in the great 
attack. One proviso of this grandiose plan, however, was that, if the Japanese 



12 Mujford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, p. 257. 

13 TransI No. 47, IncI No. 4 to G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 79, Hq 7th Inf Div, 18 Jun 45. 
11 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 572-74. 



THE BATTLE ENDS 



463 



Army on Okinawa were destroyed by 20 June, the counterlandings would be 
canceled and the remaining troops would launch an- all-out attack. 10 The reports 
incidentally made Tenth Army troops chary and watchful for a banzai charge 
which many believed would come at the end of the battle. 1 '' 
American Psychological Warfare 

Decline of enemy morale may have resulted in part from a campaign of 
psychological warfare which General Buckner started before the April landing 
and intensified as the assault against the Yaeju-Dake began. From 25 March 
until the end of organized fighting, planes dropped about 8,000,000 propaganda 
leaflets on the island. Until mid-June these leaflets were aimed at winning the 
confidence of the civilians and soldiers and at spreading defeatism. Through a 
letter addressed to General Ushijima and dropped behind enemy lines on the 
morning of 10 June, General Buckner hoped to initiate mass surrender by the 
Japanese: 

The forces under your command have fought bravely and well, and your infantry 
tactics have merited the respect of your opponents. . . . Like myself, you are an infantry 
general long schooled and practiced in infantry warfare. ... I believe, therefore, that you 
understand as clearly as I, that the destruction of all Tapanese resistance on the island is 
merely a matter of days. . . , 17 

General Buckner then invited Ushijima to enter negotiations for surrender. 

No one seriously expected Ushijima to respond to this bid for surrender. 
Two days later planes scattered another 30,000 leaflets over enemy ground, this 
time emphasizing Ushijima's refusal to negotiate for surrender and his selfish 
determination to commit his entire army to destruction, and calling upon his 
subordinate officers and men to quit of their own accord. Another appeal was 
made on 14 June. 

Actually, it was later learned, General Ushijima did not receive the original 
message until 17 June, the delay resulting from the lack of communications 
and the general confusion existing among his troops. Both he and his chief of 
staff, General Cho, considered the message hilariously funny and said that it 
would not be consonant with their honor as Samurai to entertain such a 
proposal. 18 

15 Ibid., pp. 526-27. 

16 G— 2 Periodic Rpts, Tenth Army and Its Units, 10-20 Jun 45. 

17 Joint Intelligence Center, POA Commandant Navy 128, Report on Psychological Warfare Activities 
Okinawa Operation, 15 Sep 45. 

18 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 558. 




OVERCOMING THE LAST RESISTANCE on Okinawa was aided by propaganda 
leaflets, one of which ( above) is being read by a prisoner awaiting transportation to the rear. 
Many civilians gave up at the same time. At numerous points, however, severe fighting con- 
tinued. Below, tan\s are shown reducing an enemy position. Center tan\ was \noc\ed 
out but was protected from capture by others. Shell bursts mar\ Location of Japanese. 




THE BATTLE ENDS 



465 



During the last days of the battle hundreds of thousands of "surrender 
leaflets" fell among Japanese soldiers who, caught between the sea and American 
front lines, were beginning to doubt the promises of their own government and 
army and to ponder the truth of American promises of humane treatment to 
those who came into American lines. A more direct appeal for surrender was 
made by the 7th Division on 17 June when all of its units ceased firing for an 
hour while interpreters broadcast pleas of surrender over portable loudspeakers. 
Several enemy soldiers walked toward the lines, watched for a few minutes, 
and then disappeared. One American soldier was wounded, and the Japanese 
put three holes through one of the loudspeakers. The appeal was wholly inef- 
fective. On the same day, although firing continued, interpreters of the 7th 
Division set up a loudspeaker at the cliff southeast of Nakaza and coaxed between 
500 and 600 civilians from natural caves in the rocky sea cliff. From this group 
the interpreters culled more than seventy enemy soldiers who had previously 
deserted their army and hoped to pass as civilians. 19 
Surrender and Suicide at the Water s Edge 

Mass surrender of Japanese soldiers did not begin until the Tenth Army 
crowded them almost to the water's edge. There was a noticeable increase, 
however, after the intensification of the psychological warfare program. During 
the first seventy days of battle, prisoners captured by Tenth Army averaged 
less than four a day. This average increased to more than fifty a day between 
12 and 18 June; and on 19 June, as the 6th Marine and 7th Infantry Divisions 
rolled forward near the east and west coasts, 343 enemy soldiers voluntarily 
surrendered. On the afternoon of 20 June the 32d Infantry seized the east end 
of Hill 89, a coral bulge next to the sea which housed General Ushijima's staff 
and headquarters. On the same day 977 prisoners were taken — an unprecedented 
accomplishment in the Pacific war. 20 

Even among these destitute and disorganized soldiers, less than a third 
chose to surrender rather than die, although prisoners claimed that others 
wanted to surrender but could find no opportunity. Casualties among the 
Japanese averaged about a thousand a day during the first half of June, jumped 
to nearly 2,000 on 19 June, to 3,000 the next day, and reached more than 4,000 
on 21 June. 21 This tremendous rise in enemy deaths resulted from the sudden 
and complete unbalance of power between the opposing forces and from the 

19 Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 483-84. 

20 See Tenth Army G— 2 Periodic Rpts for the period. 

21 Ibid.